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October 4, 2020
Hello White Brook Families:
We have successfully completed three weeks of school! A sincere thanks to the entire White Brook community for your patience, perseverance, and support. Thank you to all the families who came out in great numbers to pick up chrome books and materials to start school. The district will replace all grade 5 chrome books when the new ones arrive. Many families have received hotspots enabling a WIFI connection for their student. However, hotspots will not improve an existing Wi-Fi connection.
Our focus these past few weeks has been on supporting the balance of remote learning with the need for human connections that is felt by teachers, students, and families. We must meet everyone where they are—and keep the process simple—while focusing on what is most important at the time. The way we connect with students and families continues to expand. As everyone embraces this new process, new ways of connecting are emerging. Providing a strong connection between teachers, students and families continues to be an ongoing process.
Streamlining communication is necessary for schools and families to organize a remote learning program. It is crucial that parent/caregiver contact information including emails and telephone numbers are kept up-to-date and messages are checked regularly. If you have a change in contact information, please call or email the school and we will update your information in our system. This way you will be kept in the loop about district, school, and classroom information we send out. We will continue to communicate with families using email, phone, and Remind, a texting service purchased by our school district. Most team teachers have sent home information about signing up for Remind.
All classes are utilizing Google Classroom as a platform to provide assignments and resources, assign due dates, deliver feedback, and determine grades. Teachers are working with students and families to provide daily plans for both synchronous and asynchronous activities. As you have probably realized by now, your White Brook student’s school day looks much different than it did this past spring. Every student in Grades 5-8 follows a set schedule, which includes a mix of live or synchronous teaching and self-paced or asynchronous teaching and learning. All students are required to attend and participate in all scheduled remote activities, both synchronous and asynchronous. For synchronous learning, attendance is defined as video on (unless teacher asks for the camera to be turned off due to sound issues), students facing the screen, engaging in class activities. Teachers will clearly articulate expectations regarding assignments and activities. Students will receive grades and a report card using a trimester schedule. Specific expectations will be established by each teacher with respect to assignments, due dates, and grading. We encourage you to contact your child’s teacher whenever you have questions or concerns or wish to share information regarding your child’s progress.
New content will be taught in all subject areas using curriculum aligned with Massachusetts State standards. For reasons of consistency, teachers will utilize a common set of tools with a limited number of user accounts and passwords for parents and students to keep track of. Zoom will continue to be used for synchronous learning. Students will participate in whole class and small group instruction using Zoom. Students may also participate in break out rooms in Zoom. A note about Zoom Breakout Rooms: student-to-student dialogues are often used in our classes to foster social-emotional and academic growth. We call these strategies ‘turn and talks,’ ‘pair shares,’ and other collaborative terms. To replicate this practice in remote learning, educators will sometimes place students in Zoom breakout rooms in small groups of two or more students. Classroom teachers and middle school educators will drop into the rooms to listen to, participate in, and guide the student conversations. During the activity, students will have specific goals to accomplish, but may not be under the virtual supervision of an educator for short periods of time. The teachers will rotate through the rooms, then bring all students back to the main session to share ideas from the small group discussions. We look forward to continuing to share how our in-person learning best practices will translate to a remote learning environment. Some of the digital resources you might see your children working on from their Google Classrooms are IXL, GeoGebra, Illustrative Math, Collaborative Classroom: Caring School Community, Making Meaning, Being a Writer, SIPPS (Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics, and Sight Words), Teaching Tolerance ,TCI Science and Social Studies, Khan Academy, among others.
During remote learning, all special education services will be provided using the ‘instruction and services’ mode of delivery. In addition, social emotional supports are available to students who need them. The focus for all grades at White Brook right now is building relationships with students, building community, and establishing virtual classroom norms and routines. Students are learning how to navigate Zoom and Google Classroom so that they can actively participate in class discussions, find resources, and complete assignments. The goal is to help students increase their independence in these areas so that we can move forward in the coming weeks in our academics. So far students have been working hard and have been very flexible. Keep up the great work!
During remote learning, student attendance will be monitored and recorded. Teachers will take attendance in PowerSchool during homeroom and again in each period. We will confirm that students participated in at least half of each day’s scheduled structured learning time activities, defined as time during in which students are engaged in regularly scheduled instruction, learning activities, or learning assessments within the curriculum for study of the ‘core subjects’ and ‘other subjects.’ In addition to classroom time where both teachers and students are present, structured learning time may include directed study, independent study, technology-assisted learning, presentations, and assessments. A member of the school staff will reach out to families of students who are absent for multiple days to identify the reason for absence and provide support accordingly.
The faculty at White Brook recognizes that students’ social and emotional needs may be significantly different at the start of this school year than in previous years. Working with trainers from Collaborative Classroom, and The Virtues Project, our staff has intentionally planned for beginning-of-year instruction in the 2020–2021 school year that attends to the academic, social, and emotional needs of the school community. We will be using a program called Caring School Community in grade 5. This program was designed to help students become caring, responsible members of their school communities and ultimately grow into humane, principled, and skilled citizens of a democratic society. The program focuses on building relationships with and among students, teaching social skills, creating calm and orderly learning environments, and helping students acquire self-discipline. The lessons emphasize building community and relationships, while giving teachers tools to have hard conversations. Students and adults will spend time getting to know and appreciate one another and learn about each other’s interests, opinions, and ideas while treating one another with care and respect. Grades 6, 7 and 8 will continue to engage with the Virtues Project, focusing on recognizing the strength and growth virtues of every student.
In the next few weeks, we will be offering some additional activities for students. We are hoping to add an opportunity for students to join Art Club, Game Club, and homework help. Mr. Norman will also be inviting students to join STRAT (Students and Teachers Raising Awareness Together) on Friday mornings from 8:20 – 8:45. More information will be sent home in the next two weeks.
We would like to increase opportunities for building family partnerships by inviting interested parents and caregivers to attend School Council meetings. School Council members assist and advise the principal, plan goals for the school, identify needs, and provide input for School Improvement Plans. We would like to recognize our current members: parents and community members, Rebecca Belcher-Timme, Chad Cormier, Heather Brophy, Jen McLain, and Juliette Mooers, and staff members in addition to the principal and assistant principal, Alice Silveira, Katherine Sears, and Jeff Bucs. We appreciate these individuals being involved in our school community in this way. Our first school council meeting is Tuesday, October 6, 2020 at 4:30. We encourage parents or caregivers to attend and partake in a share out at the beginning of our meeting.
We take pride in our school. Students are encouraged to show their Eagle spirit, even on Zoom! We realize that remote teaching and learning is not easy and remains a hardship for many families and caregivers. We are committed to providing all White Brook students with the highest quality learning opportunities available. Please remember that we value your contribution of ideas to our school community. We look forward to your continued participation and will welcome your emails and suggestions.
Meredith Balise, Principal
Daniel Stern, Assistant Principal