Reflection as We Shift to Distance Learning

A Time for Reflection as We Shift to Distance Learning
Posted on 11/23/2020
In a recent family group chat with my almost 80-year-old mother, my siblings and I were adjusting plans for Thanksgiving this year. As my mom has aged, we have all joined in to help share in the responsibility of cooking. Our traditional foods include cooked cabbage and carrots, homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes.

My mom, who is used to 35 or so family members in her home for the holiday, observed all the discussions in the chat and then reluctantly resigned herself to our annual tradition looking a little different this year. I’d like to share her exact words… “It’s fine with me if you don’t want to get together for Thanksgiving this year. It’ll probably be the best for all of us under the circumstances. It’s sad that things have to be this way, but we’re all in this together. Love you all...Mom.” As hard as it was for me to read that message, it’s just one example of the sacrifices we are all faced with to keep our loved ones healthy and to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community.

I know the last few months have not been easy and you have had to make several sacrifices of your own. I know that balancing work, financial worries and supporting your child’s education at home has taken its toll. Though our schools remain one of the safest places to be, our shift to distance learning became a necessity. Still, I was disheartened to hear the stories of elementary students crying and the disappointment from our secondary students who wanted to be in school. We cannot overestimate the importance of in-person learning and interactions with caring adults at school. As we shift to distance learning, we will continue to monitor the latest data to bring students back as soon as possible.

I am so thankful to our teachers and staff who worked tirelessly to get our students back into the classrooms. This goal was the single most important thing we could do this year, and I thank you for your support of our entire school staff.

Relationships Over Lessons
With trimester two beginning after Thanksgiving break, I want to take some time to address one of the biggest concerns expressed by parents and students – we may be pushing too much content into each half of the trimester. This sentiment has been shared by multiple families with direct feedback from several student focus groups.

I have directed our teachers to pair down lessons so that depth of knowledge becomes the key driver of teaching and learning rather than the amount of content covered. I also shared that learning is important, but relationships and the connections we make with students will be one of the most important ways to keep students engaged during distance learning. I hope this will relieve some of the anxiety that students and families felt in trimester one.

Additionally, I must ask for your grace and patience. The issues exposed in education amid this pandemic require a collective system of changes at the local, state and federal levels along with support from the community. Our current learning model is not the same as in-person learning. Please continue to work respectfully with your child’s teachers and your principal for any concerns you may have.

Final Thoughts
As we enter distance learning, the social-emotional support for your child will continue. We know that the mental health needs of students can impact their social relationships and their ability to learn. During this pandemic and during the holidays, more students may be feeling anxiety, fear or worry. If you feel that something is wrong and your child needs more support, please contact your principal or your school’s social worker or counselor. They will be able to listen to your concerns, find a solution and determine if school or community-based support is appropriate.

Please enjoy the break and take time for yourself and your family.

Be a champion,

Julie's Signature

Julie Nielsen
Superintendent