As our community enters uncharted territory, we have been thinking a lot about how we can continue our mission to facilitate the positive development of children, support their families, and assist their teachers. We are all tasked, now, with circumstances we didn’t sign up for and couldn’t have imagined just a year ago.
Teachers have been working hard to reformat their lessons and adjust their classroom management styles. Families have been asked to do more with fewer resources. Children are expected to be engaged learners through a computer screen, without the social, in-person interactions that are so important to their growth and development. While COVID-19 has thrown us into uncharted territory, everyone is doing their best to meet these new demands and stay healthy.
The Children’s Choice staff are also doing their very best. We all took the job because we care deeply about kids, are invested in meeting their needs and following their interests, and love to have fun. We are not classroom teachers. We are not trained in standardized curriculum with rigid schedules and timelines. Participation is a choice at CC (it’s right there in the name!); kids eat when they want, play when they want, rest when they want. With few exceptions, at CC, kids do what they want, when they want, and with whom they want. We say, “yes,” whenever we can. We are whole child development people, not technology people. We typically discourage children going online and limit screen time in favor of enriching activities that require dialog and collaboration, because we believe it is all about the relationships.
This March, everything changed. We are struggling to preserve the “specialness” of Children’s Choice while at the same time meeting new demands from our families and schools. CC has always been a place for kids to do the things they couldn’t do at school or at home - unrestricted socializing with friends on the playground or over a snack; choosing between planned activities or self-selection; sharing opinions, questions, and observations; big art projects, explosive science experiments, and huge messes. “Yes” has been replaced with, “put on your mask,” “stay six feet away,” “ log in,” “log out,” “wash your hands… wash them again,” “listen to your teacher,” “do your work,”and our most common phrase these days… “focus." In many ways our new role feels contrary to all of our training and, well, just yucky. Nevertheless, we are determined to find a way to make the best of the situation and to be there for the children and families we serve, and we need your help.
Here are some things that you can do to help make this a more successful semester:
- Provide CC with your child’s school, teacher(s) names, class schedule, log-in usernames and passwords, and any assignment due dates. We do not have this information unless you provide it.
- Ensure your child’s iPad or Chromebook is fully charged each morning. We have limited access to outlets.
- Provide headphones for your child’s device, if possible. There are up to 20 different classes going on at once in a common space. Headphones help lessen distractions for everyone. If you have a pair of headphones that your child can use, please send them.We are working with our principals to secure headphones for kids without them.
- Send in school supplies. Each class has a posted supply list and even though they aren’t going to school, they still need the supplies to meet class requirements and to stay organized. CC has access to some types of supplies if needed.
- Provide a planner or calendar. Particularly for older students who are used to having APS-provided agendas, a planner may help them stay organized and accountable.
- Allow a comfort item from home. Not being in the classroom, kids are looking for different ways to connect. Some kids share their pets or a favorite part of their home. Having something to share and something from home can help alleviate some anxiety and gives them something help make connections with other students. It can also help personalize their space – like having a picture of your kiddo in your office or locker.
- Provide or request a fidget or other manipulative. Consider packing a can of play-doh, a fidget spinner, etc. with your child. Often, kids are more able to focus on a lesson and “sit still” longer if their hands are occupied.
- Be patient. Be patient with yourself if you forget something, if you run late in the morning, or if you didn’t quite get the schedule right. Be patient with us if something doesn’t go quite right – we are still learning. We need you to trust that we are doing our best to meet the needs of your child as well as the other children in the program. Things will go wrong – a connection will be lost, a log-in will be late, an assignment will be lost, but please know that we are doing our best. Lastly, be patient with your child. It is hard. There will be days when it just feels too hard for them. There will be melt-downs and tantrums, there will be defiance and flat out refusals, there will be work that will be forgotten (accidentally or not so accidentally). The expectations for them are high and we will do our best to work with you at meeting them where they are to help them meet those expectations.
Here is what you can expect from CC:
- Structure and stability. We will do everything in our power to provide a consistent space for their class time, to facilitate punctual log-in to class, and to encourage class participation.
- Technical assistance…to the best of our abilities. We are working with APS to ensure we have internet access and will do our best to troubleshoot problems as they arise. We cannot promise that all technical difficulties will be within our capabilities to resolve, but we will do our best to deal with them.
- Care, comfort, and understanding. We are sensitive to the frustration and anxiety that come along with distance learning, especially for our kids. We will use all of the tools in our tool belt to help your child feel heard, express their thoughts and feelings in appropriate ways, and to get through the school day.
- Building life skills. This situation provides us with a huge opportunity to focus on building important skills such as autonomy, time-management, and accountability. We are not, nor can we be, micro-managers. We expect the kids to be in charge of their own actions, decisions, and belongings. We expect them to follow the directions of their teachers and use their class time to complete assignments. Of course, we understand that all children are at various points in their development of these skills and we are there to meet them where they are and help them get to the next level. A big part of this process is holding them accountable. We will encourage class participation and completion of assignments, we will remind them of the expectations, and we will be there to offer support, motivation, and assistance. However, they are ultimately responsible for those decisions and the consequences are theirs.
- We are still here to provide creative and fun experiences for your child. We are thinking a little bit harder, stretching fewer resources farther, and getting a lot more creative. We still want to make memories and have a good time!
We are confident that, together, we can make this school year not just bearable, but successful and meaningful.