Home / Uncategorized / Preparing for the Possibility of Virtual Learning

Something you should know about me: by nature, I’m a Planner. 
For example, every Sunday, I chop all the veggies for the entire week and put them in Mason jars in the vegetable drawer of my fridge.  I feel satisfied just looking at those cut up vegetables, ready to go at any moment.  They bring me joy because those Mason Jars remind me that I’ve prepped during my downtime to make things easier when things get crazy. 

My habits as a spouse and parent spill over into my role as Compass Director.  To be clear, the Compass School is not closed today, nor do we currently have any indication that we wouldn’t be open on Monday.  However, like I said before, things are getting weird out there and our friends in Mass have 6 major districts closed today.  It’s time for the Compass Education equivalent of those Mason Jars. 

Last year when everyone was talking about Virtual Learning for Snow Days, Ms. Julie ordered us lovely Compass “Blizzard Bags”.  When the state didn’t approve our proposal (or anyone else’s), we put the bags in storage for some future use.  Ta Da!  It’s time! 

Check out these nifty bags, modeled by our Investigator Student Voice and Leadership students ūüôā 
So, here’s the plan:¬†
Every student will come home today with a cool blue Compass Virtual Learning Bag. 
The only exception will¬†be Navigators (7th/8th) because we sold a few bags at Eco Fair last year when I thought we weren’t going to use them – sorry!
Hang this bag on a hook for when we need it (if we need it).  
Do not start using the bag today; it’s not for right now.¬† Choose a place that is the equivalent of the drawer in my fridge for the vegetable Mason jars.¬† This is a place for you to put the bag, feel prepared, and get it when it’s time.¬†And to be clear, it is not time yet.¬†
If we close, I will provide more instructions.  
In the event of a closure,¬†you would be notified just like a snow day.¬† Then,¬†I would release the Compass School Virtual Learning website that I’m working on.¬† This will have all of the directions, links, expectations for teachers, video clips from me and more.¬†¬†And away we would go!¬†¬†¬†

Frequently Asked Questions 
Q: Why do the kids need to do work if school is closed?¬† We’re in a state of emergency, won’t these days just not count?¬†
A: 2 AnswersReal talk from Ms. Brandee: At the end of this wacky year, your 2nd grader will be a 3rd grader.¬† The year after that, she’ll be a 4th grader.¬† Eventually this whole thing will be over and life will go on as it did before.¬†¬†It is not in our kids’ best interest to put their education on pause until then.¬†You don’t want your kiddo’s¬†education to get stuck in March 2020.¬†Update from the Commissioner of Education:¬†¬†The Commissioner has asked all schools to submit Virtual Learning Plans by next week.¬† She has also said that she may shorten the school year.¬† There is no go to playbook for this, we’re making it up as we go – we’ve never seen anything like this before.¬†

Q: I’m so excited about all of these educational materials coming home!¬† Do I get to keep them?
A:¬†Real Talk from Ms. Brandee:¬†Absolutely not.¬† ūüôā¬† I am about to send¬†thousands of dollars¬†of Compass instructional materials to your home.¬† When this is over, it¬†all needs to come back…¬†for real life ūüôā I’m sending you the cool blue bag for a reason – keep all of these special materials there .¬† Do not let these educational tools mix in with your household’s materials.¬†

Q: Everything will be in the bag?¬† That’s it?
Nope!¬† We put the hardcopy materials your kiddo will need in the cool blue Compass bags.¬† More details by step are below:¬†For Explorers (K-1st) this is all you need.¬†¬†For Adventurers (2nd) there will be some online choice resources.¬†For Discoverers (3rd/4th), Investigators (5th/6th) and Navigators (7th/8th), there will be online components in addition to what’s in your bag.¬† It will be on a Compass School Virtual Learning website with assignments in Google Classroom.¬†

Q:  Oh geez, I have 3 kids at Compass Рare all 3 teachers going to start blasting me with 500 emails about what these kids need to do?
A: Nope – that would be chaotic and that’s not how we roll here.¬† All messaging will come from the teachers, through me, to you in one streamlined communication.¬† I will post all of the things you need in one centralized location.¬†¬†

Q: You said we will have online expectations for the 3rd-8th graders.¬† I have 3 kids in those age ranges, plus my spouse and I need our computers too.¬† There is going to be too much device competition to get anything done.¬† What then, Ms. Brandee? ūüôā
A: If we close, I am going to set up a¬†Resource Drive Through at Compass.¬† I’ll be standing there in full hazmat gear – just kidding…I think :).¬† You’re going to roll up in your vehicle just like you are doing morning drop off, you’ll open your window and I’ll drop in the Chromebook, charger, and any other supplies you need to be successful.¬† Don’t get out of your car – just like at drop off.

Q: My kiddo has an IEP and I’m not sure if he/she will be able to do the stuff you’re sending home in these bags.¬† What then?
A: We’re one step ahead of you!¬† Our special education team has already gone through these bags and modified the work or taken out what isn’t appropriate and replaced it with something individualized to your kiddo.¬† Additional support service team members (like social work, speech, OT, etc) are also adding special materials so that your darling still gets the services he/she needs.¬†

Q: Oy…are you expecting me to become my child’s teacher?
A: We’re going to need some help from you to make this work, but no, you’re not the teacher.¬† We’re starting off with assignments that we’ve already taught – students are practicing skills.¬† If this goes on for an extended period, we’re going to shift gears to a more advanced instructional delivery, but we’re not there yet.¬†¬†

Q: Ms. Brandee, you’re a beast about school attendance!¬† I aspire to not be called in for an attendance meeting in your office… but I’m kinda freaking out because my kiddo is now creeping into the Warning Signs level.¬† Should I send him/her to school even though he is coughing all over the house?
A: Ummm….no – don’t send him in!¬† ¬†Look, you’re right…¬†¬†Under normal circumstances, your kiddos should be in school…every day, unless they are vomiting or have a fever.¬†¬†These are not normal circumstances.¬†¬†Follow the guidance we are putting out.¬† Safety of the community is the most important thing.¬†

Q: While Compass is still open, is everything business as usual? 
A: Nope.¬† Here’s a list of things that are definitely cancelled:¬†Student-Led conferences will be held by conference call.¬† I’ll send more details next week.¬†Track is postponed until further notice.¬†Swim at URI is cancelled.¬†We’re making decisions about farm camp one day at a time.¬†Field trips are cancelled.¬†Project shares will not include families because families are visitors.¬† They will likely include buddies if school is in session.¬†Q: Oh my goodness, I am freaking out.
A: Well then I’m glad that your kiddos are safe here at school where we working to keep it cool ūüôā¬† Here’s the deal, my friends, our kiddos are looking to us for guidance.¬† You can be real when you talk to them – this is scary,¬†but you need to keep your full-on freakout to an adult audience.¬†

The CDC and the Dept of Health are experts on health Рwe should all follow their guidance on health.  The Compass Team and I are experts on kids and education.  You should follow our guidance on learning.  Please keep this guidance from the Compass Team and I in mind: 
Host a family meeting. 
Talk with your children. Be real, but be reassuring.   Ask them what questions they have.Ask them what they think they know and fact check it.  
Limit how much Coronavirus News your child is watching
It’s not healthy for adults to watch it 24/7 and it’s definitely¬†not healthy for kids to be over-exposed (or exposed at all) to it either.
If we close, start the school work right away, don’t procrastinate.¬†
Kids need normalcy in uncertain times.¬† This work that we’re sending home is normal to them; there’s comfort in that.¬†¬†Have you heard the advice that some professors say to new teachers, “Don’t smile until Christmas?”¬† Clearly I don’t follow this guidance, but the overall message is that you need to set the culture and expectations at the beginning.¬† If you start soft, you’ll never be able to restart.¬† Create a culture that is solid right from the beginning.¬†¬†¬†We’re going to be talking a lot over the coming days and weeks.¬† I look forward to tackling this challenge together.¬† We’ve got this.