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.

The Building is Closed, But the Learning Continues– Trinity Goes Digital

Trinity teachers are engaging in online instruction now through March 27 in response to the coronavirus health crisis. This is a whole new world for some of our faculty, while for others (mostly upper school teachers) digital tools have been part of the curriculum for some time already.

So, how did we get here? As usual with Trinity, our community of support is strong and constant. Immediately upon receiving news that school closures could be a possibility, our Head of School, Kevin Goetz, communicated with school leaders across the region. This close communication has been very helpful for everyone to create a plan of action that will benefit the biggest possible group, while keeping public health  the top priority.

Teachers at Trinity began researching, collaborating, and sharing resources for digital instruction. We leaned in and asked for guidance from other schools whose teachers have been using “digital learning days” as part of their instruction. We are giving parents and students resources too, so that they can create a new normal at home and continue the school experience for their children.

We count on our own parents, too, to help us provide guidance and leadership to our families. Parents who work in the health care field have been instrumental in helping us communicate messages that are clear, consistent, and up-to-date.

Beginning this week, all students will receive digital instruction from their teachers. This looks different from one grade to another, but across every classroom we will be as committed to the education of each child as ever before. While upper school students will rely on their Chromebooks, younger children may engage in virtual story time or visits to museums. Athletic director Sandy Butler has plenty of online lessons for P.E. for every grade level, too!

It will be a while before we’re all back in the school building again– but we are still Trinity, and still together. Thanks to our community of support,we got this.

Maureen Crone is Trinity’s marketing and development director.

Phase 1 Safety Upgrades Complete

In an uncertain world, TLS wants to be certain about the safety of students and their families. Over the Christmas break, the first phase of several safety/security upgrades planned for 2019 was completed.  These improvements included multiple reinforced doors and a new door/barrier off the school foyer.  This setup allows staff to cordon off the classroom section of the school during an emergency or lockdown event.

In early January, several additional exterior lights were added to the end of the building and parking lot area. These super bright lights make navigating the sidewalk and parking lot much easier and add to the safety of those entering and exiting the building.

Phase II of our security upgrades, to begin in late February or early March, will include more electronic card access sites that will allow individual doors to be opened from a central location.  Any lost or misplaced cards can be immediately remotely deactivated. These new card access sites paired with the reinforced doors ensure each child’s physical security within the school in the event of a lockdown situation.

Thanks to both the generosity of Trinity families and supporters and the matching funds from Towne Bank from the annual Lion’s Share Breakfast in November, the school can initiate this next round of the security work much earlier than expected.

TLS Students Fill Hearts for February

Trinity Lutheran School’s frenzy of giving activity this month has been all about filling hearts and showing love. Operation Fill the Bags to Fill Their Hearts and collections to help the homeless have been this month’s top two service projects.

Cancer has touched the lives of the TLS family multiple times in the past year. To show the school’s love and support for those affected by cancer, the Operation Fill the Bags to Fill Their Hearts campaign encouraged students and their families to donate useful and cheerful items for cancer victims. Although the tallying, sorting, and packaging of donated items is actively in progress at this writing, over 20 blankets plus items that have filled five large bins indicate TLS students have a lot of heart. Fuzzy, grippy socks; gift cards; activity and coloring books, crayons; lip balms; small toys; moisturizers; and much more count among the many donations. Students and parents are sorting, personalizing, and preparing the care packages for delivery to Virginia Oncology and the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters (CHKD) Child Life Department.

In support of Trinity Lutheran Church’s annual hosting of PORT (People Offering Resources Together) this month, which provides an overnight shelter and meals to homeless individuals and families, students have been collecting small toiletries and socks and making Valentines for our less fortunate community members. As another sweet gesture, the students also sponsored the TLS Brownie Sunday for PORT on February 13th to provide ice cream sundaes for the evening’s dessert.

New School PA system installed

We began school-wide morning announcements this week.  This was a major purchase (thanks to YOU in our Towne Bank Parent’s Campaign!) as we upgraded our routers around the building and included speakers on each unit.  Each day at 8:05, our 7th graders broadcast to the whole school.  They share upcoming school events, student’s birthdays, TLS sports results, a thought for the day, etc.  Then we recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer together before beginning our school day.  We’ve been looking forward to beginning these for quite a while since we’ve lacked an effective school-wide PA system.  Many thanks!