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School Update Letter

4/2/20 | School Articles | by Mrs. Jill Fischer

School Update Letter

    What is the plan, Mrs. Fischer?
    Thank you to all of our parents and additional caregivers of the children for responding and engaging with us as best each of your situations allows. None of us ever expected that school would look like this. Just as you didn’t plan to be homeschooling your children, we didn’t plan to be virtual teachers. I didn’t plan to be the principal of a virtual school. But here we find ourselves. I appreciate your patience as we continue to learn as we go. I know that is now getting old but learning takes time. As the extensions for returning to school get pushed further and further out, I have been asked, “What is the plan, Mrs. Fischer?” It is my plan to do school as best as we possibly can in the manner that we know best. My focus is on easing my fears, the fears of the teachers, the fears of parents, and the fears of the Knights. School has always been the constant. The routine it provides brings calm to lessen anxiety when the world can be less than kind. This is what we do. We aren’t able to do that so well right now. We teach kids before we teach subjects. We meet their needs and then we teach. We can’t do that in the manner that we are most familiar. This is a time for humility and understanding of how fragile this moment really is. Kids didn’t choose this. The teachers didn’t choose this. Parents didn’t choose this. I didn’t choose this. With what stands before me, this is my plan.

    We are not a virtual school. Virtual schools have a unique curriculum unto themselves and a delivery for that curriculum that is very different from traditional schooling. In the best case scenario, transitions from traditional to online learning is done very intentionally and with great thought. We were not provided with that opportunity. We are a traditional school that is being forced to go online. We have a curriculum that must be addressed the best way we can with what we have. We are not going to introduce new curriculum. We will learn new platforms in order to meet the curriculum expectations set before us. This is advised to be a best practice – don’t start something new. Be consistent to build a routine. Now is not the time to experiment. There is enough being thrown at us that we need to strike a balance. We need to get our footing. We need to create a routine. We are modifying our expectations and changing our approaches to lesson delivery and work. Each classroom has its own personality. I wouldn’t want that to change. The children have come to know their teachers. If we stopped doing what we do, that would make an upsetting situation all the more so. Teachers are working very hard to get lessons to you and manage your questions and the students questions. This looks very different from K3 through 8th grade. Even with online lessons being videoed and shared, children need to have interaction in order to learn. Virtual can only do so much. Unfortunately, this does now fall onto you. You didn’t ask to be classroom teacher, and I am so very sorry about that. Many of the teachers are also homeschooling their children. We need to be kind to one another and be the hands of Jesus to one another. I would encourage you to reach out to the teachers with what is troubling you as well as with what is working so that they know. The kind exchange of feedback between all of the stakeholders is the only way we can be successful in this endeavor. We don’t know what we don’t know. Let’s slow down and get used to what we, St. Dominic, is doing. I am glad my counterparts in the archdiocese and in the public schools are each finding their rhythm. Some of you are expressing that you like what they are doing better. I welcome learning and, should it be appropriate and work nicely with what we have going on, will take it into consideration.

    As students engage online with their teachers, it is providing a two-fold purpose. It is showing that our Knights are engaging which, by law, I must be able to provide proof of when all of this is finally over. The second is that their engagement, no matter how or when it happens, is an opportunity for the teachers to provide feedback on student work so that kids can see comments and have a path toward growth. This, whether virtually or face to face, is how we operate in school. Take one away, face to face, we depend on the other, online. It is essential that students keep going. This is akin to going to an empty gym and shooting a basketball with no one working with you on your form, and working with a coach who helps you get better. We are only able to coach so far and then we need our assistants. This is a team approach to learning. If the work is worth doing, then it’s also worth getting high quality feedback on. This is most significant with our older students. We’re working on getting the rhythm that we had going in the classroom. I have hope. But I also know the strengths and limitations of our staff. I did not build a staff for a virtual school. I built a staff for a traditional school. This is more challenging for some of our teachers than for others. This may apply to what parents are experiencing at home as well. We have to keep remembering that. As teachers roll out their videos and meetings with students, it is my goal to “pop in” just like I do their classrooms.

    While our footing gets more solid, the ground continues to move. I am being asked about all of the events we have coming up in April, May, and June. I would very much like to keep things on the calendar as a means of hope. I also want to be realistic. I will be conversing with the School Advisory Committee and Home and School Association about determinations to these upcoming events. We will work on a contingency plan together. As for our eighth graders, I feel the most brokenhearted for them. We are not going to cancel anything to celebrate them unless we are absolutely told to do so. This is all so devastating.

    So that is my plan. It may not be perfect. It may not be great. But it is what I am able to offer all things considered.

    Mary, Mother of God, pray for us.
    St. Dominic, pray for us.
    Mrs. Fischer