A smile. “Good morning” at the door or the school. “Hi” in the hallway. Chatting on the playground. Working together in the school garden. Navigating through conflict. Teaching calm down strategies, conflict resolution skills, and perhaps kindness. Supporting budding leaders in their ventures. Visiting classrooms to talk with students about their learning. These are some of the ways that principals and vice-principals develop relationships and communicate with students. It may serve as an invitation to other conversations. It may establish a welcoming tone in the school. So what do principals do when a global pandemic keeps all of the students at home?
At this time of COVID-19 more than ever, we want to re-assure students of the constants in their lives. They still belong to a school community that cares about them. We have a number of strategies to keep ourselves safe and healthy. Teachers are doing a great job of reaching out to re-establish strong classroom connections and provide learning opportunities at home. Teachers are communicating via email, phone, text, and online. On line platform such as Teams Classroom, My BluePrint, and Showbie are allowing students to access lessons, assignments, and opportunities at my school. Support materials are being provided to support students.
My quest as a school principal is to find ways to make students feel part of their larger school community. Can it be done? I’m a confirmed optimist, so I believe it can. The “Together We’re Better” has become a tagline. However, the tagline emerges from an essential truth. At difficult times, we need to come together to support one another. For some students, it may be one part of a well-developed support network. For other students, it will be a lifeline. I want every child to have at least one adult who they are comfortable to reach out too. I am trying some things that I hope will make a difference.
- Video-tweeting a message everyday while students are not able to come to school to learn. Our school Twitter feed @LivingstoneVSB is a link on the school website so it can easily be accessed by students without a Twitter account.
- Sending weekly newsletters to students when I send home the newsletter to parents / guardians. This week I shared a recipe from my maternal grand-mother and the story that makes it special. See sample below.
- Sharing some activities and opportunities that can be adapted from Kindergarten to Grade 7 on the Livingstone school website. I am hoping it will provide some areas of common experience, much like when we have a school assembly or program.
- Providing links and opportunities for online activities and resources from our community partners. The entire school participated in the Project Chef In-Residence Program this year. It was a highly enjoyable learning experience that left Chef Barb and her talented foodie crew, near and dear to our hearts. Yoga Buggy provided a program through a partnership agreement with our Tupper Community School Team to introduce students to yoga and support our goal of developing greater mindfulness. Yoga Buggy then provided a program for our Grade 1,2, and 3 classrooms. I am hoping that the familiarity and the background knowledge developed in programs like these will allow students to try the learning opportunities on these links at home.
I’m making the commitment to take risks and try some new things outside of my comfort zone. This is exactly what we asking teachers, students and parents to do. I have a few ideas in mind, but I’m hoping this blog will bring me some new ideas to try. Two things I love about blogging: It helps me to clarify my thinking about what matters most and it always precipitates conversation. I’m always open to the conversations that push my thinking and provide other possibilities. I hope to hear from you.
Stay safe. Be gentle with yourself.
Addendum: Most recent letter to students:
Friday, April 17, 2020
Dear Livingstone Students,
Week 3 of #SchoolAtHome or #HomeAtSchool – depending on your perspective. The sunshine has been glorious this week. We have almost broken the record for the most sunny days in April in over 100 years! Great for our ability to get outside and enjoy some activity outside. For many of us, it is one of our “Dozen Ways to Feel #Joy” during this tumultuous time of COVID-19!
Students have been learning with teachers, parents and siblings in some interesting new ways. Many of you have shared that you have been enjoying baking. Me, too. #Joy I’m going to share my Nanny Keenan’s recipe for Oatcakes. Nanny was my Mom’s mother. She was born in Brandon, Manitoba but her Mom, my great-grandmother, was born in Scotland. Oatcakes are a very Scottish treat. I spent lots of time with my Nanny Keenan. As soon as I’d walk in the door with my Mom or my aunts, she’d get us to put on the kettle for a “cuppa” tea. Oatcakes are perfect for a tea party.
Nanny Keenan’s Oatcakes
1 cup flour
2 cups quick oats
½ cup sugar
¾ cup shortening
¼ cup shortening with ½ teaspoon baking soda
Optional – a handful of brown sugar and a bit of cinnamon ( I tried this variation after I had some amazing oatcakes on a biking trip on Prince Edward Island.)
- Mix all the ingredients together.
- Sprinkle flour on a cutting board, then roll out the dough with a rolling pin dusted with flour. You can decide if you want them thinner or thicker.
- My Nanny Keenan cut the pieces in triangles so she would use all of the dough the first time. Sometimes I roll out the dough and use a cup to cut circles. I think they look fancier. Then you have to roll out the dough a second time to use the remaining dough. Nanny Keenan hated waste so she ALWAYS cut triangles.
- Bake from 8-12 minutes until golden brown.
Go to the School Website to see today’s video-tweet @LIvingstoneVSB of Miranda and what she’s been baking. Yum. Enjoy.
I would love to have stories, pictures of your work, and any thoughts about what would be fun learning activities for your peers. Let me know if you are okay with me posting your work on the school Twitter feed @LivingstoneVSB and the school website. I would love to hear from you. I miss you.