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The Most Important Thing Students Need During COVID

We’ve all seen some amazing acts of love and kindness from teachers lately– both at Trinity, and across Virginia. Parades, Zoom parties, and virtual music class are just a few of the novelties that come to mind. It turns out that these gestures have a much bigger impact for good than just making a child’s day, though.

Let’s face it– we are four months into the most bizarre, terrifying, and unstable year the modern world has seen. And while the adults of Planet Earth are working tirelessly to problem-solve, heal, help, and mitigate, our children are suddenly suspended in a strange new world of their own. According to a recent report by UNESCO, over 90% of the world’s children– almost 1.6 billion–have been sent home from school for the remainder of the year. In the United States, 75% of school-aged children are now at home.

There is already hope for the future, both near and long-term, for education in America, although it will doubtless look much like it did back in September. Still, signs of a new educational model are emerging. But what about now? Although plans are already underway at every level to map out the future of education– from stepped-up hygiene practices and  small class sizes to a continued emphasis on remote learning–it is important to take note of the impact this moment has on our children. How is this closure on such a massive scale going to impact our students– both next year, and beyond?

A recent NPR article focused on the effect of long-term school closures on children, specifically those in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. After the hurricane devastated the region, schools did not re-open for an entire semester. Many students did without any instruction or interaction with their teachers at all. The result? Those students who were “behind” the curve were dealt a blow that took years to recover from. Inequalities in the classroom are magnified without continuous instruction, and extremely challenging to overcome.

This grim scenario does have a hopeful ending, though. Studies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education  showed that regular interaction between teachers and students through episodes of extreme social disruption does more than just continue the lessons. It has the ability to offset enormous stress for children, bolster confidence and security, and encourage positive communication strategies.

So, for parents and teachers at Trinity Lutheran School, this is good news. The online instruction, Zoom meetings, and virtual chapel services are serving our students in more ways than one. Our teachers seemed to know right away that the connection between teacher and student is the most important element of education– that’s the thing that motivates and empowers, that instills the confidence to tackle hard things, that instills a love of learning. With this connection intact, we are learning together and moving forward. This truly is what “educating hearts and minds” looks like.

Maureen Crone is the marketing and development director at Trinity Lutheran School, and the mom of two really good digital students who connect with their teachers every day.

Good Thoughts From Mr. Goetz: Emilio’s Legacy

 

This is the time of year when schools across the country usually start their “home stretch”. The weather warms up. Recess gets a little more joyful. And the oldest students start to look out the window a little more often, daydreaming of what comes next. Trinity’s eighth grade class has had a lot to process in the past few years, and this year’s ending is not what they thought it would be. I’ve been thinking about how strange and anticlimactic this school year ending must be for our eighth graders. I’ve been reminded, too, of one student we lost who would have graduated this year, and how that loss impacts our current students even now. I’m  very thankful, though, that we were able to celebrate the life of this very special student just before our transition away from the building and into online instruction.

 

 We held our second annual  Emilio’s Fun Run on Friday, March 6th in the gym. All of our students from preschool through eighth grade participated. While our younger students were filled with excitement and school spirit to be a part of this weeklong event, I know that for our soon-to-be grads, our faculty, and for me, this run was about celebrating a boy’s life, and reminding ourselves that we can all make a difference for the better.

 

Emilio was just a 6th grade student when he was diagnosed with cancer in February 2018.  He passed away, surrounded by his family, later that year. He was a gentle soul who was a  friend to everyone he met, and who excelled in his academics. He was also a gifted runner, leading Trinity’s cross country team as both a 5th and 6th grader.  He loved the outdoors, and was participating in Coach Butler’s Outdoor Education program at the time of his diagnosis.  

 

As a community, we wanted to honor Emilio for all of his special traits, so we started a  scholarship fund in his name. Our first Emilio’s Fun Run was held in March 2019, and raised enough money to award a full academic scholarship for one deserving student.  As luck would have it, that student came from Emilio’s own class– Trinity’s Class of 2020.

 

Through the overwhelming support of Trinity families and friends, this year’s Fun Run was another success for Emilio’s scholarship fund. Our students and their families raised almost $10,000. As we move forward, we will again offer either a full scholarship for the 2020-21 school year or several partial scholarships.

 

 You hear a lot about 2020, or 20/20…about 20/20 vision, and hindsight, being perfect, for example. This year’s students of 2020 have nothing certain ahead of them, though, at least for the short term. So I am taking a moment to look back, where things look clear. I see a young man who didn’t know that his legacy was to provide scholarship aid to future students at his school. I see families who decided to honor and celebrate his life every year, even though they did not know him personally. I see a community that has held each other together for six decades. When I look back at all this, I can then turn my gaze forward. And I see hope, in all of you. 

 

Thank you, Emilio.

Trinity’s Head of School shares his insights and perspectives in “Good Thoughts From Mr. Goetz.”

5 Things for Parents to Remember During COVID-19

The following is an excerpt from a letter sent to parents by an elementary school principal. Although its author cannot be verified, this message has been shared thousands of times in the past few days. We at Trinity Lutheran School feel that this message of hope and encouragement is an important one for all of us.

This is my advice for those who have been thrust into schooling your kids at home due to the coronavirus COVID-19 shutdowns. You are NOT homeschooling. You are CRISIS schooling. Crisis schooling is stressful and even trauma-inducing. Being at home all day is NOT our normal! Our kids are not used to being in their houses all day long. Children are grieving right now. Out of the blue, they lost a lot. It is wonderful that so many classes are going online, but it’s not the same. They lost their in-person time with friends, their daily routine and the predictability of life that gives us security. We all did.

1. HONOR that grief process! Don’t expect to just jump into a perfect program and learn, learn, learn. Expect them to act out. Expect them to not want to get out of bed. Expect them to not have words to express their inner turmoil.

2. YOU are grieving and experiencing loss. Give yourself a lot of GRACE! Even some of us veterans in education are struggling because our security has been yanked from under our feet. Some of you have lost jobs. Those who are working are afraid of going out. Some of you have been to 5 grocery stores and still do not have what you need. Our society has been turned upside down. Give yourself a break.

3. It is okay to NOT be amazing. Don’t try to be Pinterest Homeschool Mom/Dad of the Year. From experience, I can tell you, something always “gives”, no matter how perfect people pretend to be. When you have 18 kids in a class, it takes a lot of time to get all of them to turn to page 32, take out pencils, get their paper, stop pulling their friend’s hair. There are natural distractions with a big class that do not happen in a small one. You will get done fast!

4. Don’t artificially create busywork to do for 6 hours a day. That will anger and bore your child, and make you tear your hair out. When you’re done, you’re done! Go do some fun things! Or… even crazier… have fun learning! If your school did not give you loads of worksheets, be glad. Now you can read lots of literature and do hands-on learning! There is a lot of learning that does not end in a worksheet. Read, read,read!

5. Get crazy and ask your kids what they are interested in– and then learn about that! If your child thinks the solar system is really cool, then read about the solar system, look up YouTube videos about it, do projects about it, making it fun and engaging. If you do that, your day will fly by… and you’ll still be learning.
Life will go on even if you are not stellar during a worldwide crisis. Maybe your best today will be to cuddle up with the kids and just be together. Maybe your best today is that everyone is fed and you didn’t cry in front of them. It’s okay, and even necessary, to be REAL with yourself about what’s happening. A bomb did not literally go off, but metaphorically it did. Our lives may never be the same after this. If you crumble, honor that. I promise you, your child will learn. We learn from all of life! Blessings and love to all of the parents who are taking on this huge challenge! Give yourself grace! You got this!! I believe in you! I have seen parents work miracles in schooling their children.

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