The year 2020 has proven to be a year of many twists and turns. After finishing out the previous school year virtually, Guam Adventist Academy (GAA) was poised to open in-person on August 17. Staff did extensive planning and preparation over the summer to optimize student learning while ensuring student safety on campus. Social distancing was a driving force for implementing new procedures. Handbooks were drawn up with extensive new procedures mapped out, parent meetings held, and even a dress-rehearsal of the first day was conducted. Everything was in place and ready. And then everything changed.
With school set to start on a Monday, staff and families found out the Friday before that no school, public or private, on the island of Guam would be allowed to open in-person due to increased COVID-19 cases and we would return to Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1 (PCOR-1) restrictions. Staff quickly rallied together and moved their courses online. While the transition came on suddenly, it wasn’t completely unexpected; with COVID-19 still present on the island, teachers always knew that going virtual again was a possibility. Regardless of how instruction would take place, GAA has always kept central its mission of serving God through helping students to get to know Him better. With this focus in mind, teachers willingly took up the challenge laid out before them and got to work preparing.
With the rapid turnaround, one immediate necessity that arouse was to get materials out to students and families so they could start school online. A pick-up schedule was quickly developed to allow families to visit the school in shifts to get needed textbooks and work packets. Again, teachers and admin worked together to organize the book distribution and have everything ready for when families arrived so they could pick up their items and return home while minimizing contact with other people.
Beyond organizing textbooks, teachers also put in long hours organizing their courses online. While for some this was already a familiar process from having done it in the previous school year, for others it was anew experience. GAA is blessed to have several new teachers this year, but for them, this was all unfamiliar. With little time to learn new technologies, teachers supported one other by teaching each other from their own strengths, sharing best tips and practices, and being available for questions and answers. GAA staff is small but mighty, with many cumulative years of experience and wisdom among them. Pooled together, this is a powerful force of strength for the school. That force, multiplied by the Holy Spirit, is a formula for success.
With the first couple of weeks of school now already over with, feedback from families is generally positive. Yes, there have been a few wrinkles to iron out. But families recognize that their teachers care deeply and want the best for their students. While everybody involved looks forward to being able to return to the classroom, for now they are all making the best of the situation presented. And the daily prayer among staff continues to be, “Lord, let us be Your servants today and let us do Your will. Work through us to help our students know You better. Amen.”
There are six keys to helping your child be a successful learner at home:
1. Routine – Help your child set a consistent schedule that they can follow day-to-day, just like they would do in a classroom setting. Children thrive on consistency. Beyond just a school schedule, make predictable routines for the whole day together, such as eating breakfast by a certain time, time outside together after schoolwork, and a time to shut down the computer and have family time.
2. Workspace – Your child needs an organized workspace with distractions minimized. You may need to clear out a room or a corner to be your child’s learning space. Avoid using the phone or television near where your child is working so they can focus on their lessons.
3. Supplies – Keep supplies, including textbooks, within easy reach to minimize downtime. Having to go look for supplies will kill a child’s focus and bring the lesson to a halt.
4. Technology – Children often know more about technology than adults do these days, but it’s still important to ensure that your child has a good understanding of their computer or other device, as well as any websites and software that they will be using. If you are unable to help them, reach out to teachers who can guide your child through the learning process.
5. Independence – Allow your child to work as independently as possible. They should be attempting grade-level assignments on their own, just as they would in the classroom. They can also complete housekeeping tasks on their own, such as submitting assignments or asking the teacher for help. Avoid the trap of doing these things for your child or this will become an undesirable habit that you will have a hard time breaking. Children who learn to be self-sufficient also feel a sense of pride and accomplishment in taking care of things themselves.
6. When in Doubt, Reach Out! – Your child’s teacher is working hard to ensure your child’s success. Don’t be afraid to go to your teacher with questions and concerns that you are having. Your teacher is your partner and your biggest ally in this distance learning experience.