A successful response to crisis with a Virtual School

The digital age is actually the greatest societal disrupter since the invention of the printing press, yet requires a very different skill set than before. We have all heard about the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning: Communication, Creativity, Critical Thinking and Collaboration. In addition, one must be flexible and problem-solve. It is no longer about how high you jump, or how fast you run, but about how well you bounce.  

Now, add to this situation a pandemic. Fortunately, Temple Beth Am Day School knows how to respond as we now have to “practice what we preach.” In a matter of 48 hours, we proved that we can bounce, as we turned our school into a Virtual School. To do this, we had to put into real action problem-solving, collaboration and extreme flexibility. Our teachers have risen to the task, as our directors have guided them: Susy Novak, Jen Carey and Mara Berger. Ashley Reed, our Educational Technology Integrator, also has been indispensable. We should all be proud of them.

From sending out a Parent Survey to see what virtual/digital access families had at home, to providing a full day of professional development for our faculty — and then giving them two days to figure out their instruction using technology — we have proven, once again, that we are an amazing institution.

Classroom teachers are providing direct instruction, independent student-time, class meetings, one-on-one check-ins and more. Our School Counselor is providing parents with guidance and resources regarding language and emotional states. Our Library/Media Specialist has communicated rich literary resources for parents, as have our Physical Education Coaches, and Music and Art teachers. We are moving forward!

 A 1st grade student participates in a Mathematics virtual session, then works independently.

Are there some hiccups along the way? Of course, even Google (we are a Google Classroom School) has identified some issues with the platforms they have provided to schools, and they are correcting them and updating as we speak.

We continue to daily assess our practices and will always improve what we are doing. But, according to one of our parents — we are ahead of even our local public school.

 Students learn the magic of science while first-graders experience a virtual class.

 A student practices journaling while another makes play dough.

Below are just a few of the many parent feedbacks we have received

“We are having so much fun having 'school at home!' It’s been so great to spend all this time with my babies. We played jump over the candle stick, sorted toys big to small, and watched for birds in their habitat — trees! We saw a beautiful red cardinal and drew a bunch of birds from a book. We even had recess! Hope you are staying safe and have all the supplies you need!”

“This morning, Charlie found her link to login on Google Classroom nicely labeled with today’s date and her homeroom teacher ran the live class at 8:30 am with just Charlie’s classmates. It moved brilliantly. Ms. Jahoda was able to call on students who took turns reading and/or asking and answering questions. This eased the anxiety Charlie and I both experienced yesterday. I will now completely bow out gracefully and continue to allow you and the teaching staff to continue. You guys are doing an amazing job and I’m so fortunate my girls have such an early exposure to this kind of technology.”

“I just wanted to send you a note to tell you how wonderful I think Mr. Salzberg is doing with his class in this moment of crisis. Not only has he created a schedule for the kids and a way for them to still see one another, he has really gone above and beyond by continuing to teach our children. I was working in the same room as Henry today while he was “in class” discussing history and I was so impressed by the exchange. They discussed history, learned terms, learned new vocabulary and related everything to what’s happening right now with hoarding and scarcity. It was great. Just wanted you to know how impressed I am.

A time for meditation at home with yoga, while another student exercises fine-motor skills.