MAUSD stories, part 5: final thoughts

MAUSD EMPLOYEES DRESS in costume as they help out with the MAUSD meals delivery program.

Editor’s note: This is a project of the Mount Abraham Unified School District’s Community Engagement Committee (CEC). The Addison Independent is hosting this content as a service to the community. Names of the interviewees have been withheld in accordance with the commitments made by the CEC for the project. (Click here to read more about this project.)
Part 5: Is there anything else you’d want people to know about what this shift has been like, so far?
It’s been sad and also exciting. It’s been exciting because in the wintertime, when we go to school in the morning, we have to go outside to get there, even if it’s really cold. Now we don’t have to go outside even to go to school, even when it’s too cold. Now, when we wake up on a school day, we get to watch TV for a little while, before we start our work. The sad thing is I don’t get to see my friends that much, only on videos.
Grownups need to know that at first they made the schoolwork really easy, then they kind of made it a little harder.
We’re the next generation and we’re going to tell our kids about this. This is our 9/11 or like other big historical events. It is going to change us, and people should believe in our generation because we have the ability to do something good. Also, we should keep thanking the teachers and administrators for all of their work.
I think something that is really important is that everyone is trying to figure this out and do their best. Teachers have been reaching out and classmates have been working together. That has been a great resource. Everyone is trying to help each other out and make this work. Even though this has been a difficult situation it has also been valuable.
Elementary Teacher – Grade 1
It has been hard to be away from our students. We’re teaching in a different way and that’s hard too. This is not easy. I work hard as a first-grade teacher, but I am working harder with all these new components and all the communication. We are the front line of reaching out to families. We are doing the bulk of the conversation and the supporting of families. It is hard work. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different.
Middle School Teacher – Grades 7-8
While we have learned some important things from this model, ultimately distance learning is not the ideal for middle level education. Engaging students in grappling with and helping solve real problems in their communities is imperative at this stage in adolescence. This type of project-based education is best done face-to-face.  
High School Teacher
It’s been hard not to see others and our students. It’s one reason we go into teaching … because we love that community. Thank goodness we have the remote online community. But we miss the students and being there! I love school!
What I’d certainly like families to know is that we’re flexible and we want to meet their kids’ needs. If something’s not working for a family, we just really want to know about that. I’ve had some parent contacts where it feels like later we find out that “oh my goodness, this child is just having such a hard time.” I don’t want people to think we’re putting pressure on kids to work and to do. We want to provide education and make sure it’s available. Their wellbeing and mental health are more important than our curriculum. So we’ll do whatever we need to do … because this time is unbelievable and we know it must be completely unbelievable for families.
One thing I’d like to share: I’ve had the observation that things were going a little more swimmingly before the break. And after the April break it felt like some of our students are … just not handling it well. People … the administrators, the advisers, guidance counselors, coaches are doing a ton of calls. We have a lot of names of kids who seem to be struggling … it just sort of exploded right after the break.
Elementary Principal
At our school and at the district too, there are so many examples of excellent work.
Our school’s student support team talks about particular kids who need specific supports. A week and a half ago we talked about three students who had no interaction with the school. A staff member went to their homes, stood outside, and taught kids how to get online. In one instance, after describing the multiple steps he needed to teach one student (getting Zoom to work, logging in to a new reading program, losing audio and having to communicate by pointing at the computer through a window in the student’s home), the staff member raved about that student’s ability and willingness to stick with it through the whole ordeal. Staff members here will do anything that works. 
It’s different layers that catch different kids — we have enough layers. Our attendance is 95%, which is normal — actually a little better than before. It’s because everyone is doing something. We have about a dozen kids who get called by additional people (in addition to their classroom teacher) to help them get up and ready for their schoolwork in the morning, or to check in and check out with them at the beginning and the end of the day, just as they do at school. Our systems that were working at school have transferred, and they’re working.
High School Principal
We are working so hard for our students and families to provide meaningful education that furthers student learning and can help provide normalcy in a tumultuous environment where there for a while things were changing by the minute. As I said before, we are in this business for our students and working remotely has made that abundantly clear when I hear stories of teachers calling every single one of their students, sending notes, working into the evening hours for Zoom calls because that is what works best for kids. We are doing everything in our power to meet students and their families where they are while moving them forward with their academic skills and knowledge. We adjust our practice on the fly and take feedback to heart to improve our systems of support and instruction. We also recognize how hard students are working to stay connected to their teachers and the learning. Some are flourishing in the remote learning environment while others are missing the day-to-day routines and interactions with their peers and teachers. Their wellbeing is the highest priority for us there is an enormous amount of behind-the-scenes work and dedication that makes it all happen. Our students are rising to the challenge and overall doing well in the face of adversity. Groups like the Environmental Action Group are still meeting to move their mission forward and junior and senior class officers meet to brainstorm ideas for graduation, prom and other celebrations. Student voice, involvement and recognition has never been more important.
Teachers and students flipped the way we do business in a matter of days! This effort has been herculean and met with various changes. We have had to be light on our feet and ready to pivot from one idea and move to another in very little time. Everyone has been handling this with grace, grit and courage.
I want to make sure everyone knows about all of these great things that are happening. We in the 5-Town community have risen to this challenge, in the schools but also outside of them, and we should be really proud. The common theme is “the strength of our community” — and it is now tested, and is very evident. It’s validating and reassuring, and let’s celebrate it.

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