I hope you are well, and that you’ve been able to at least enjoy a change of pace during this spring break. I know many of you had last minute changes of plans as travel became more restricted. While I am sure this has been disappointing, I hope you have made the most of the family time. At least Baltimore’s weather has cooperated!
I also hope you’ve been taking the recommendations to “social distance” seriously. I recognize that this is hard, especially with teenagers, but I do believe it’s our best chance at lowering the risk of exposure and spread of illness. It’s been a joy to walk through our neighborhood and see children playing in their yards, riding bicycles and making their own fun, all from the appropriate distance, of course!
I am sure that like me, you’ve also spent a good deal of time wondering what these next weeks will look like. We are certainly in for an adventure as we launch our plans for distance learning. I have been closely following schools who are well ahead of us in this shift, and while I can’t promise many things, I can tell you we are going to learn a lot and will probably modify our plans as we go. I suspect this will be a longer haul than two weeks, and while I truly hope I am wrong, I think we will find that to keep our community as safe as possible, staying physically apart is going to be the right thing to do.
However, we will endeavor to deliver the Bryn Mawr mission in as steady a way as possible. I ask everyone’s patience and partnership as we shift to a very different model of delivering our curriculum, as there will undoubtedly be some kinks along the way, but rest assured that we will continue to provide meaningful learning, even at a distance. Our Bryn Mawr community is more than just a physical place.
Just prior to break, we sent out two weeks’ worth of plans and we will use these as the basis for our distance learning until April 3. What will be added is more contact with teachers and advisors via technology or phone. Faculty have been working to prepare ways to connect with our students and families. Each division will do this a little differently, and you’ll be hearing more from your Division Director tomorrow (Friday for Little School). We are all planning ahead for the next phase of learning, so expect things to be modified as we learn more about what is or isn’t working.
As we embark on this new version of school, for whatever period of time it lasts, we will be in frequent communication and always value your feedback. Here are some things you can expect from us, and what we’ll be hoping for from you!
From the School:
Weekly message from the Head of School
Weekly divisional newsletters
Frequent contact from your student’s homeroom teacher or advisor
Continuity of Learning
Tuesday, March 24: Professional Day
Wednesday, March 25: Commence distance learning
At least four hours of online content or independent work per day. This meets the Maryland state requirements for a school day.
School “hours” will be Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. No new content for the next day will be published after 4 p.m. Students will know in advance if they are expected to be online synchronously. While teachers and administrators will not be “on demand,” they will regularly check email during these hours.
Teachers and students will interact online, via email, and via videoconference, with specifics determined by age appropriateness, available technology and instructional needs.
While this first phase will really be about getting our academics up and running, we will also try some activities to help keep students engaged and occupied. Some of these may be just for fun.
We will not try to replicate the entire school day.
Support! We are here to help. Here’s who to email for assistance:
Divisional Offices: Emailing the Division Director, Assistant Director, or Administrative Assistant in the Little, Lower, Middle, or Upper Schools is always a good place to start if you don’t know who to contact.
Advisors/Homeroom Teachers: Good resources if you have concerns about your child’s experience.
Classroom teacher: Direct questions about instructions or expectations
School counselors: We are here to help students and families work through any issues they encounter.
Learning Specialists: For students on plans or who are temporarily in need of organizational support.
Our website directory
has specific information and numbers. Remember we also have a specific page for Coronavirus information, including the school’s distance learning plans here.
Head of School: Any time!
And here is what we are hoping for from you:
We expect parents to continue to report absences via the usual divisional attendence email addresses. If a student is unable to participate in distance learning that day due to illness or due to family commitment, please let us know.
We expect parents or students to connect with their advisors and homeroom teachers for support or questions.
Immediately let us know if you are experiencing any issues. We will do whatever we can to resolve these.
A device for students to use and WiFi will be essential. Please be in touch if you have concerns or need assistance.
Headphones or earphones are highly recommended.
School will provide a device for Lower School students who need one. Plans to distribute will come from the Lower School office in their communication tomorrow morning.
This is new for all of us and we really need your constructive feedback as well as your patience. It’s going to take some time to get into a rhythm.
Students will need adult structure at home, based on their ages and stages of development. I expect this to lessen over time as everyone gets used to a new routine.
Creating a dedicated space and time for learning in your family routine will be essential.
And last but not least, compassion, humor, and flexibility are always helpful words to remember. It’s likely that someone related to our community will become ill, and we want to be sure that our good wishes for their full recovery are our first sentiment. We’ll definitely need a little humor to ease some of the less graceful moments (such as when one of my recent video conference participants' youngest child ran naked through the video- she quipped, “At least it wasn't my husband!”). We will need to work together to accomplish this new remote learning in the best possible way, so flexibility and communication will really be essential.
Some good will come out of this situation, even if it’s only that our children get to enjoy more unstructured time to use their imaginations. I really believe that creative play is a key feature in developing self-management skills for children. Even teens benefit from time to daydream and connect with their inner selves! AND those of us of a certain age are certainly going to get better with technology! We are all going to be able to practice our resilience in the coming weeks.
I have always been an optimist, so I believe that if we stick together, we will come through this as intact as possible. Bryn Mawr is a tight knit community, and we are here to help. As soon as we get this week underway, I will invite you to join me in groups for virtual parent coffees so we can come together for support and fellowship. Thank you for all you will do to help great learning happen at home. We will try to make this as easy and family friendly as possible.
Most importantly, stay healthy and hopeful. We are in this together, and I look forward to seeing how the Bryn Mawr community will rise to this new challenge.