April 24, 2020
Dear Maple Street Families,
When reconvening on Zoom feels like a homecoming (as it did this week for many of us), we know that we are living in a wacky time. I hope that your break was restful and restorative, and that the return to distance learning has been smooth.
As we look toward the future in this uncertain time, there are things we don’t know yet, and things that remain the same.
We know that school at a distance isn’t perfect. We’ve been listening to feedback about specials and about the need to cultivate motivation in students, and brainstorming in staffulty meetings and parent meetings ways we can improve. Specialists will begin to connect with homerooms on a regular basis, and we are thinking deeply about pedagogy and how we can adjust and develop our teaching to suit this unique time. We have been listening to the children, too. Student council surveyed the Upper School and gained some important insights (“too much sitting,” “I’m learning!”). These student leaders reflected on how they can serve their peers right now and developed a plan for collective movement breaks at 9:40 for Upper School students. Their announcement can be found below.
One constant is learning and academic achievement. Maple Street students have recently received some notable awards. Two of our students have been named Zaner-Bloser National Handwriting Contest State Winners! Please join me in congratulating Brooke in Grade 2 and Caroline R in Grade 3 (as well as their teachers and families)! In Grade 8, Chris was awarded First Place in Hildene’s Lincoln Essay Competition. According to the Hildene website, “For the past thirteen years, Hildene has administered the Lincoln Essay Competition informed by our mission: Values into Action. Using Abraham Lincoln’s legacy as touchstone, Hildene seeks to inspire young people to tackle important issues, underscoring the responsibility each of us has to help make our world a better place. The competition is open to all eighth graders in the state of Vermont, whether they enter as part of a class assignment or on their own. Essays are judged on the student’s understanding of the subject, as well as by their ability to convey that understanding through good writing.” Congratulations to Chris on his First Place win, to his teachers, and his family!
As always, teachers and I welcome conversations about students and how we can best support them. With the shift to distance learning, students may be experiencing some new challenges and struggles. Families now have a whole new perspective on the children’s work habits, skill sets, and motivations. These insights are important and we invite you to share your observations, challenges, and questions with us. Please feel free to reach out to your child’s teacher or me.
We don’t know what graduation will look like yet. We have several ideas in play (a movie, a teacher caravan, creative ways for delivering diplomas). We will abide by state and local recommendations and we will finalize and communicate our plan as soon as it is reasonable to do so. We know that it will be a memorable celebration for our graduates, and we know some event (at home? Physically distanced? Involving a car parade?) will happen on Thursday, June 4.
We don’t know what next year will look like yet. We know that our decisions will be informed by state and local government, best practices in safety and public health, our expertise in child development, our compassionate understanding of the Maple Street community and its needs, and our commitment to joyful learning. We are developing multiple plans so that we can be ready with an action plan as soon as the situation allows, and we are prepared to implement multiple plans over the school year, if necessary.
We know that when students resume school in the upcoming academic year, they will be in different places academically, socially, and emotionally. This is always true, and Maple Street teachers understand how to differentiate and tailor their relationships for learning with each student. Concerns may be elevated during this pandemic; with continued professional development, Maple Street’s educators will be ready to welcome everyone to a new and successful school year.
An educator I deeply admire, Corrie Martin, recently wrote in a personal note, “Don't downplay the ingenuity and unprecedented cooperation and energy that this sudden moment called for--on one level it is crazy to think what had to happen so quickly for so many; and the fact that individuals and systems DID make things happen is utterly mind-blowing. Even as we can also now take stock of the problems/issues and challenges, we should have the mindset that any such challenge CAN be addressed when the willpower is there to solve it…” Maple Street can address these challenges and the ones we have yet to expect together. I am so grateful for this community.
I know my letters are long, and I aspire to be shorter and pithier. There is so much happening so quickly right now, and I think it is important to communicate as clearly and comprehensively as we can. Thank you for your patience in reading through this letter, thank you for sharing your children with us and bringing joy into our lives each day, and thank you for partnering with us through these tricky times. It is an honor to think together with so many wonderful people about how we can make it through this tough time as a community that holds children at the center of what we do.