The Strength and Partnership Within Our Community

Faith Hunter
Dear Parents,

Dropping into morning meetings this morning were a testament to creativity, resilience, and the power of community. It was encouraging to see our youngest community members focused on “whole body listening,” steadying their bodies with a mindful moment and getting ready for another day of learning. I watched students stretch out words with Sound in Motion while reading a morning message. I watched our teachers use small breakout rooms for discussions to enable more student voice. I was delighted to see many of the engagement techniques we use in school transferred over to the Zoom classroom: children taking the mic, children holding up hand signals to participate, children calling on the next speaker. While there is nothing “normal” about a day of online school for elementary students, your children (and you!) are doing an incredible job adapting in this short period of time. 

I am grateful for the strength and partnership within our community as it is a  lifeline in this unimaginable moment, and I want to offer words of advice on how to get through it with less stress. 

First of all, I will reiterate what I said in a previous announcement because it needs to be repeated: Be patient with yourself! The transition to distance learning will take some time. Parents will need to think differently about how to support their children, how to create structures and routines that allow their children to be independent, and how to monitor and support their children’s learning to be successful. In particular, I know the adjustment to remote learning is hardest for the families of our youngest students, so trust me when I say that we are doing our utmost to make the transition as seamless as possible. Acclimating to the new technology will be the steepest learning curve; once we do, things will get easier. While our goal is for students to require less than an hour of adult support, we recognize that, for Lower School students, getting there will take time. Please know that it will get easier. 

Thank you for your patience as we continue to tweak our program in response to our students’ experience and your feedback. I am in daily conversations with school administrators in New York and across the globe to brainstorm how to make remote learning as enriching as possible. We are using every resource and ounce of creativity our talented faculty possess to create a meaningful, engaging experience for our students. 

Below you will  find more details about the end of Phase 1 (Week 1) and the start of Phase 2 (Week 2) below.

Phase 1 (Week 1)
There will be distinct phases throughout this process, and this first week is most definitely Phase 1. I ask you all to hold a few things in mind that will hopefully alleviate some stress as we navigate through each phase:
  1. Everything in this first phase is an invitation. If something becomes overwhelming, please feel free to give it a pass. LREI@home is meant to add community and engagement — not anxiety — to your child’s day. If an assignment becomes a source of stress, you should feel completely comfortable skipping it. Your child will not be penalized, nor will they be left behind.

  2. If anything, our teachers over-prepared! We have heard many parents ask us to cut back a bit on content and lessons while everyone is adapting to the technology, the juggle of multiple children, and working from home. We hear you and will adjust this next week. 

  3. In these first two weeks, our teachers, children, and families are learning how to access new online platforms and navigate them independently. This alone is a huge learning curve and can no doubt be stressful. We are here to support you and are adjusting based on your feedback. On that note, Pearsonrealize.com is proving to be challenging for families to use. As a result, we are pulling back from using Pearson. Your children are encouraged to go on DreamBox instead for differentiated reinforcement. Our teachers will be moving toward a combination of more live math sessions and prepared lessons with materials on Seesaw. In this first phase, the most important things are that children and families acclimate to the various platforms and find ways for children to navigate independently as much as they possibly can. Try to help your child establish routines to:

    • Sign into Zoom and participate independently
    • Sign into DreamBox and participate independently
    • Carry out a Seesaw lesson with some level of independence

  4. We’ve learned that the most successful moments for our students this week have been small-group live sessions. Therefore, we are adapting the program to increase this type of instruction.

  5. Our goal for the end of Phase 1 is that our students and families have adapted to Morning Meeting Routines, acclimated to independent work and assignments through Seesaw, and learned to sign in and use DreamBox Math, Seesaw, and Zoom.
Phase 2 (Week 2)
Phase 2 will feature the following adjustments:
  1. Increased engagement in 20–30-minute, full-class Morning Meetings. Our teachers have been working hard to develop  techniques to make these meetings more engaging, including tightening up greetings, utilizing breakout groups, implementing additional  techniques to further engage our students, and adding more teachers to these times so we can do additional small-group work. We have seen a marked improvement in only three days and expect that Phase 2 will be significantly more engaging.

  2. Increased small-group live teaching sessions. Reading groups will increase from two to four times per week. Some specials will take place in live half-groups, and some core academic sessions that were taking place in Seesaw will happen live.

  3. Parents of our youngest students need more time when children are engaged independently. All teachers of students in 4’s through first grade are adding an afternoon read aloud/closing activity that should not require adult supervision. 
Many of you have shared that you are worried about your children falling behind. We have designed our program to be as equitable as possible for all children, and some of you have further adapted the program to match your particular circumstances. Regardless of your approach, I want to reassure you that, if you prioritize the following three components of a child’s day, we are confident we will be in a good place when we all come back together.
  1. Children should be read to and immersed in language every day. The most important daily habit your child can establish is to read a book at their level and listen to books read aloud. Teachers are assigning daily reading and doing read-alouds with their students. In addition, Audible has made all children’s books free. Pick a book, hit play, and let your child listen while they build a tower, draw a picture, or curl up with a stuffed animal on the couch. Call it reading hour and time it for when you need a break, knowing you are giving your child these gifts:

    • Expanding their vocabulary
    • Building up important background knowledge
    • Familiarizing your children with the structures of language they will tap into when they read and write themselves
    • Creating a positive association with books

  2. Children should be writing every day. For our youngest students, sounding out a word or a sentence once a day will strengthen their writing muscles and keep them moving forward. For older students, spending even 15–30 minutes a day writing will make a huge difference. Teachers are assigning daily writing lessons and journal writing to facilitate the writing process.

  3. Children should focus on the basics of math. DreamBox is designed to adapt to your child’s level and move them along a continuum of learning. Doing DreamBox three times a week for 20 minutes will make a big difference, even if your child is unable to complete other assignments. 
Feedback
I have been meeting with parent reps throughout this week, and your feedback has been extremely helpful. Please continue to communicate with your parent reps. I will be meeting with each grade level once per week.
 
Back to School Parent Information Session
On Monday, April 6, we will host 30 minute “Back to School” zoom meetings to answer further questions tailored to your child’s grade. Parents should submit questions in advance to Kenna at kmateos@lrei.org. You can join my meeting room at this link.
  • 4’s and Kindergarten: 5:45 p.m.
  • 1st & 2nd Grade: 6:16 p.m.
  • 3rd & 4th Grade:  6:45 p.m.
Spring Family Conferences
Family Conferences will now take place on May 1st and 4th. More information will be provided in next week's note. 
 
Resources
If you have any questions about work assigned by specialists, you may email them directly or schedule a zoom meeting with them. A directory of lower school specialists may be found here
 
For those of you looking for more ideas of ways to engage your children our librarians have put together this wonderful resource page filled with websites where you can listen to audiobooks, tour museums and zoos, print out coloring pages, and more!
 
Tech Support
For tech issues for your student’s device, or for issues of internet instability, please email help@lrei.org and someone from our Tech Team will contact you asap. If your family is having challenges accessing LREI@home for technical reasons, please reach out to me or Kenna directly (fhunter@lrei.org and kmateos@lrei.org). We will work with you to find a solution.
 
Thank you for your words of encouragement, your suggestions about how to strengthen the program, and your willingness to partner. I couldn’t be more proud of the work our teachers are doing or more honored to be part of such a thoughtful, passionate, dedicated community.
 
Please feel free at any moment to email me, Alisa, or Kenna directly should you need anything!
 
In Partnership, 
Faith
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