Mr. Bierwiler's 'Hanging with Mr. B'
Principal Brennen Bierwiler
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Dear Center Street Parents and Guardians,
I hope that you and your family are healthy and in good spirits during this time of our great Separation. It has been an abrupt and deep interruption to all of our lives, to all aspects of life, and so, amidst these trying times, I will find comfort in knowing that you are well, that you are working through the present difficulties, and that your loved ones are safe and well too.
The last few days have been an adjustment for me. I have been adjusting to spending a lot of time on the computer doing my work, and figuring out new ways to do work online. I have also been adjusting to having more time available for me to do things that I never seem to get to, like working around the house, taking bike rides and reading books. I have also been adjusting to being around my family a lot and all of us being pretty much home-bound. I am adjusting to not watching TV. In the days before the Separation, I used to either watch sports or news, exclusively. Now with sports defunct and news continuous and bleak, I have just done without TV. It is likely the adjustments that you have had to make are even more extreme. With your children home from school, you are surely making the additional adjustments of being stay-at-home moms and dads, and being your child’s home-school teacher. God bless you!
As difficult as some of these adjustments are, I have been trying to embrace the positivity in them. This is the only position that really makes sense, after all. This is our situation now; to resist it or to be upset by the adjustments required seems futile, a waste of energy. I would recommend trying to look for the silver lining—like how we are all becoming experts in E-Learning, or how mindfulness is enhanced when you are a paying attention to what your hands are doing all day, or how this hiatus from your normal job allows the incredibly unique opportunity to be at home with your family in this intense way, or to get outdoors more than normal, or to get those things done that need doing, if only you had the time for doing them.
We are now moving into our 2nd week of E-Learning assignments. I am very proud of the work that our teachers have done to create virtual learning experiences for their students, with very little advanced notice. It is important to realize that being a teacher at Center Street is a very different thing from being a teacher at Virtual Center Street. While there are some intermediate level (3rd-5th) classrooms that have been using Google Classroom with their students all year, and for whom the virtual structure and technological know-how is already in place, this is not the case for all of our classrooms. That said, all of our teachers are currently working hard to deliver appropriate instruction and/or provide appropriate learning experiences for their students. They are also engaged in ongoing networking with each other through the video-conferencing platform, Google Meet, to refine and develop their online educational programs, and the best practices for this kind of work. Mr. Papagno is setting up Google accounts for all of our K-1 students, thereby ensuring that all students in the school have access to the Google Suite for Education (which includes Google Classroom and other useful tools for this work).
As we all get more comfortable with the various platforms and tools for online teaching and learning, the delivery of instruction will get easier, better and more creative. For now, we are allowing teachers flexibility in what they do. We trust their professional judgement in how they are checking work and providing feedback. But we have every expectation that this project will be evolving, not only in terms of how it is done, but also in terms of the nature of the work. The longer the current situation persists, the more important it will be that the work assigned is instructional, rather than maintenance/review. That is, the teachers will be strategizing on how best to teach new units and new curricular objectives virtually.
Right now however our first priority is on maintaining physical health and emotional well being. We do not want our students unduly stressed with school work, and we sympathize with your own difficulties of working from home, juggling your work schedule and your child’s school, or perhaps even taking care of a loved one who is unwell. A little later today, we will be sending out a newsletter (“The Comforting Times”) to you that was developed by Dr. Agoglia and other mental health professionals around the District. It contains many valuable strategies and resources for dealing with the unique challenges of these times.
In closing, I would suggest to you that aside from the imperatives of good health, my primary concern right now is holding us together as a school community, during this time we are apart. Even though we are all literally operating in many little bubbles right now, we must make the effort to come together as one (school) too. E pluribus unum, "from many, one” is the philosophy reported by money, and is a fundamental idea of our Republic; it has to be a priority for us against the challenges of the Separation too. As we move forward together, we will discover new ways and new ideas for strengthening our collective; for now, I will make the following suggestions to foster this:
—Get set up with Google Meet at home. This way you will have a way to “meet" with other parents or allow your children to say hello to friends. Try it out now. This is a great way to network, and honestly, it is nice to see other people’s faces. It’s kind of like having a conversation: The Google product is so slick that the speaker comes up on the big center screen, the program accurately following the conversation volley, and the captions feature is very accurate too. The longer this goes on, the greater the importance will be that we are all using this format to talk face to face. There are other video-conferencing platforms, like Zoom, but the Google Meet is the platform preferred by the District because it honors privacy laws regarding the sharing of data.
—Send us some stuff to put out on Twitter/follow us on Twitter We have only used this platform to share kids’ experiences at school, but now it seems like a good tool to keep us connected. I have asked teachers to send me or Mrs. Friel pictures/videos of them at home “working or playing”. I will also invite the you to send us content for posting of your children doing E-Learning at home, or having fun as a family. Please send these to your teacher, who will then pass them along to us for posting.
—The PTA is planning an upcoming Virtual Spirit Week. It will involve the normal Spirit Week things like, Monday : Wear your PJs and read your favorite book, Tuesday: Wear your favorite Team Shirt and play your favorite sport with the family, etc. Please be on the lookout for more formal notification of these designs. We will be working with the PTA to bring this and other special programs to our students virtually. It is a great time to get involved in the PTA and support these kinds of efforts.
—The Center Street Staff will also be contributing to this effort. We have a little project under way now for our students/families that will be sent out to you shortly. Keep an eye out for things coming to you from us—this will typically take place in the form of a list serve with a link. Personally, I hope to start making some video recordings (reading a book, playing a math game, doing something cool outdoors, etc.) to put out to the students/families too. I’m actually excited about this.
Well, that is about it for now. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to email your teacher—we are all on email every day. If you need to reach me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Take care and be well.
Brennen Bierwiler, Principal