As many of you understand, school during the last year has been complicated. One day our kids were at their schools like normal and the next day they were home indefinitely. Forty kids, six different schools, a LOT of different schedules, all at home, all the time—it was like nothing we experienced before.
After months of small tweaks, some rethinking about what works and what doesn’t work, and a few big changes, we started the new school year last month feeling confident about the year ahead.
We’ve faced our share of tears, complaints, disappointment, and struggles over the last year too. Today, the teachers at Dorie’s Promise are sharing some of their school success and challenges, as well as the lessons they learned over the last year.
Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The absolute, most important lesson we learned last year was to ask for help. When classes switched to distance learning, we needed help.
First, our teachers switched their hours to match the new school times. With Miss Lucky and Miss Jenny focused on schooling, the rest of our staff could do the equally hard work of implementing new safety protocols.
As the months progressed and a quick return to school seemed unlikely, we shifted and shuffled in hopes of finding the perfect balance. The task of coordinating everyone’s schedules went to our social worker. Then, our Special Mothers took responsibility for getting everyone in their respective classroom at Dorie’s Promise on time each day. Finally, we hired a third teacher last summer and found our missing piece.
On a related note, if you find yourself staring at a computer unable to complete the task at hand, we’ve found it best to ask a child for help.
Lesson #2: Remember, this is hard for everyone.
Distance learning has been good for some, but brutal for others. We’re doing our best to make it work.
For our teachers, the learning curve was hard. They had to manage multiple programs, schedules, teaching styles, and expectations from each school and teacher. If our teachers were struggling this much, imagine how our kids felt.
The quarantine and its varying restrictions affected all of us differently.
We’ve been working with each child to help them do well. For some kids, we excuse a little more silliness during class because they want to laugh with their school friends. Our preschoolers enjoy activities like color days at home, a fun reminder of normal school activities. Others need quiet time to process their thoughts on their own. We try to give them space to think and work without distraction.
We’re trying to be more gracious with each other.
Lesson #3: Schedules and routines can change.
One of the biggest challenges we faced last year was scheduling. Making sure everyone was in class on time was daunting. Even after we settled into a Zoom routine, we still faced the challenge of helping everyone complete their homework.
Each of our children has a unique personality and learns at a different rate. Their differences and needs became especially apparent while trying to juggle school at home.
Instead of filling our classrooms and finishing school as early as possible, we spread out. We spread out physically into bigger spaces and more spaces around our homes for those who need fewer distractions. We built breaks into our school day to burn off energy for those who have a hard time sitting still. One teacher even designed a personalized class and came in early each day to help one of our boys.
Our goal was to give each child the time and environment they needed to learn.
Lesson #4: Make good memories.
Despite the difficulty of being home full-time and having classes online, this year was one of the best experiences for our teachers. They shared moments that will never be forgotten and helped our children face incredibly difficult challenges.
We have great memories from last year.
Our children had fun last year. When the preschoolers worked on colors, there was homemade play dough, matching clothes, and backyard games. Birthday dinners turned into costume and pinata parties. We did Zumba, Jazzercise, games, crafts, and stories on Zoom with friends. And our teachers were there to share the moments.
We watched our kids become more independent and more supportive all the same time. They’re more confident in themselves and their abilities now, but they’re also more supportive of each other. This experience has taught them to rely on each other, to be more empathetic, and to genuinely celebrate each other.
We’re incredibly proud of our kids.
Lesson #5: Don’t be afraid to change.
Eleven months ago, we had lots of questions but no answers for how to guarantee school success. Now, we’re starting the new school year confidently.
Don’t be afraid to change.
Miss Lucky moved on-site to be available more and avoid the restrictions placed on public transportation. Miss Jenny found success through the “process of adaptation and getting out of the comfort zone, not only for children but also for the teachers.” Missy Heidy joined our staff as a Special Mother, only to be offered a teaching position after just 3 months.
And our biggest change of all—this year we are homeschooling half of our children. We’re doing what’s best for each of our children. Yes, homeschooling will be a big change, but we’re confident that it’s the best choice.
Despite its challenges, 2020 was a great year for our children. We’re excited for the year ahead and can’t wait to share more school successes with you!