Deal NEALS Members and Supporters,
My intention in this letter was to introduce myself and talk about all the great plans that NEALS has in store for the 2020-21 school year, but life has other plans right now. As we near the beginning of the school year, my head is spinning with ideas about how to best support my students whether we are in-person (masked and 6 feet apart), or remote and meeting via Zoom, or a combination of the two. These are strange times! I just started teaching at Dedham Country Day School last year; I was warmly welcomed and became an active part of the community. This year’s changes to schedule and program delivery make me feel like I am starting a new job all over again.
In my personal life, I am getting ready to send my son to college for his Freshman year. As of now, he will be on campus and attending classes in a hybrid model. My daughter is a rising high school Junior and will be attending school in person two days a week and the remainder of her school time will be a combination of asynchronous and synchronous online learning. I mourn for their lost experiences in this pandemic, but I celebrate their resilience and “can do” attitude. After all, this is the new normal.
The new normal means that we need to shift our thinking quickly- and be prepared to change how we teach in a moment’s notice. I am reviewing all of my curriculum and materials and trying to figure out if handouts would be better presented in a Google Doc format or as a Slide presentation. I am seeking videos and other online tools that can reinforce concepts. I am also trying to figure out how to better reach the students who crumbled last March and were incapacitated with reading ansynchornous class instructions let alone actually trying to complete the assignment. I keep thinking back to presentations on executive functions presented at prior NEALS conferences and realizing that my students and I are all in the same boat; anxiety and stress are trying to turn off our thinking brains and yet we are frequently trying to “do school” like we normally do. All of our old tricks and strategies need to be reviewed and analyzed to figure out if they will work in the new normal. This is hard work!
The new normal has also led to some silver linings on some very dark clouds- NEALS has begun to use technology to help us better connect. We are now hosting member meetings online and they have been great! As much as I love our annual conferences, I have enjoyed connecting online with so many of you during these past months. And there is a bonus of no commute or hotel needed to get to these meetings! NEALS will continue to deliver online programming this year and I hope to “see” you at our future online offerings. Our next event on August 19th addresses best practices in “the new normal” and I know I am looking forward to hearing from others about what new tips and tricks I can incorporate into my teaching this year.
The mission statement of NEALS is:
Promoting professional development for learning specialists
Creating community through collaboration, support, and advocacy
I am proud of the work NEALS has done during the pandemic to ensure that learning specialists feel supported. We will continue to provide professional development and community building events this year, just in a new way. I hope you will join us on this “new normal” adventure.