By Stephanie Sumner and Jen Roth Co-principals, Charlotte Central School
The past ten school days have certainly presented us all with a huge learning curve! While many parts of this learning have been deeply challenging and sad, so many aspects have been incredibly uplifting and encouraging. At the outset of such an unprecedented time in education, we have seen that the things we hold most important at CCS—social-emotional learning, growth mindset, communication, collaboration and COMMUNITY—have risen to the top of the priority list for everyone impacted.
Personally, being principals from home instead of in the school building is not nearly as fun as our jobs were before we were directed to work from home! We miss seeing our students in real time, miss working face-to-face with our amazing educators, miss seeing parents and community members coming into the building each day. It’s hard to capture the daily “buzz of the building,” but we feel its absence in our days. If there is anything consistent about a school day, it’s that no two days are ever the same! Educators and students thrive in that environment, and we’re working really hard to try to replicate that as much as possible when we move to remote learning. That is true for our work as the co-principals and instructional leaders.
We continue to hear from our CCS parents regularly and are getting a high volume of responses to the survey we sent out. Unsurprisingly, we are getting a great deal of support and collaboration! Our CCS community has always been strong, and that is a buoy to this new kind of partnership we’re building. Parents are letting us know what is working, what could work better, what their children need and what their family can offer in terms of support and resources.
As a parent, I think I’m enjoying and struggling with the same things as everyone else! I love seeing my kids more—probably because we’re looking at colleges with my oldest, and I’ll take any time I can get! I’m also really sad for my kids—they miss their friends and teachers, even with being able to see them online. We’re trying to make the best of this situation by getting outdoors, doing puzzles, cooking together, and giving each other space when it is needed. My kids are teenagers, so they understand the seriousness of this health crisis and that helps with my enforcement of social distancing. We can’t wait to be able to see their grandparents again, when it is healthy and safe to do so.
As for school, I am so impressed by what I’ve seen them do in their work and with the connections they’re maintaining with their peers and teachers. I am also now completely confident that my place is in the K-8 world—high school geometry and chemistry is not my forte! In all seriousness, we’re settling into a groove. I think moving to remote learning in the next couple of weeks will provide more balance, purpose and routine for us. All in all, I truly believe that we’ll all look back on this and realize the truly important lessons are the ones that are requiring us to be caring, resilient and resourceful.
While the framework for our learning platform has been virtual and online, it has provided students and my own children with opportunities to broaden their learning to their home and community. Our goal as parents and educators is to capture a child’s natural curiosities and capitalize on it by providing the opportunity for them to pursue knowledge and to create an artifact of their experience. My children are working on their own time management, balancing time to complete their schoolwork and time to dig into their passions: learning to play piano, create art projects, planting their garden seeds and learning to cook meals. (The last one may be a directive from me since I am tired of cooking and cleaning up after!)
In my home, my family needed to get in sync with sharing space, work/school time, and different responsibilities with how we use the time. This felt a bit like a comedy of errors! For example, it was hard finding a space that could be used for video conferencing, with siblings in the background arguing over dish duty. Another challenge has been to share the bandwidth—it was not possible for all of us to be working online at the same time. This guided my family to find the balance on screen time with physical exertion and hands-on learning. At 9 a.m. on Monday morning, I say we’ve gotten into the groove of “office hour norms” and keeping the interactions kinder than necessary—but you may want to check back on Friday to see how successful we were.
This is an uncertain and unprecedented time. In the last two weeks, my goal has been to find a balance for me and my family; physical distancing to keep our community safe while nurturing our need to be social, how much time for work vs. play. We needed to honor the mental and emotional response to these unknowns, to express gratitude for what we have and to be generous in our care for others.