What happened to everything that we thought we understood about our world, education, a place called school, and human connectivity? COVID-19 threw our world into the unknown. Almost everything, except for family, that we counted on in our daily lives was dashed into isolation. What can we rely on now? What is our sea anchor that holds us safe?
Carroll School declares that our job is to give each child what that child most needs. It doesn’t matter whether we are forced to social distance or whether we are in person. That is our job. A remote plan that failed to focus on this principle would never work properly for the Carroll community.
Enter Carroll School’s best friend, Gec Washman, the mythical character whose name is the now-politically-incorrect loose acronym of “Give Each Child What She or He Most Needs”. (We now prefer the grammatically challenging mantra of “Give Each Child What They Most Need.") In times of peril, Carroll educators rely on the wisdom of GEC. When a student is struggling, we GEC. When teachers seek answers, we call on the principles of GEC. In times of COVID, we have needed to be disciples of GEC more than ever.
In less than a week in the middle of March 2020, Carroll educators were forced to design an entirely new academic schedule, academic approach, and instructional routine. But we didn’t need to invent new guiding principles. We needed to figure out how to "give each child" in a remote setting.
GECCO- Give Each Child Carroll Online. Our north star in designing online education was GEC. In designing Carroll education from a distance, we argued about that guidestar for zero minutes. It was obvious to everyone that our goal was to design remote education that was as consistent with GEC principles as possible. To be sure, GECCO is different from on-campus GEC. Yet, our remote model is defined by the same principles that define a Carroll education.
No doubt a major component of what each student most needs is human interaction and community, with well-matched peers and skilled educators. We cannot provide all of that remotely, but we have defined our distance education program by the GEC principles. We focus all of our attention on the wellbeing of each individual, we seek to move students in a forward direction in their education, we work hard to ensure that children have joy in their learning, and teachers/tutors provide regular constructive feedback to their students.
These core principles of GEC are utilized to execute Carroll’s online educational practices:
- Teach Reading and Language Skills: Every student who needs Orton-Gillingham tutorial receives it remotely. Every student continues to meet in their language arts classes via Google Meet with continuing diagnostic-prescriptive instruction, expecting students to make forward progress in their skill development.
- Personalized Education: In addition to scheduled classes, tutors and teachers meet with students online, with “office hours” for students to work with teachers on a personal level. We want students to know that they have direct access to help they seek. A major component of our remote program is connection with individual students, rather than a series of routinized forty-five minute classes.
- Daily Program: We did not attempt to replicate a 8:30-3:00 school day. Individualized schedules are designed to GEC with a collection of classes, breaks, student meetings with teachers, conferences with parents, and opportunities for fun. It is a manageable and humane approach to distance education.
- Remove Obstacles: Teachers and tutors collaborate to problem solve remotely to discuss student progress, seek to remove learning obstacles, and recommend any changes in a child’s program.
- Human Connection: Each morning starts with the familiar faces and routines of homeroom. Seeing each others’ faces has been a crucial element in creating connections (and happiness) for students and faculty. Homeroom has also become a mechanism for checking in on the wellbeing of each student by teachers who know their children extremely well.
- Dyslexic Advantage: We have provided many opportunities in the arts and creative activities, outdoor challenges, and exercise classes, particularly on Fridays and over April vacation week. Our students need their strengths nurtured during these times more than ever! We seek to build in “rally points” during remote education of times that we all cherish such as Today’s Hoorays and special events.
- Students of Concern: Division Heads, Counselors, Speech-Language Pathologists, and Executive Function Coaches check in on “students of concern” constantly, even creating scheduled appointments to ensure student success.
- Vigilance: Academic leadership maintains a watch list of students, some who were at risk even before COVID, to monitor systematically in support of their success.
- Program Flexibility: Academic leaders meet almost daily to check in on students they’re worried about and redesign their programs as needed.
- Parents: We issued diplomas to Carroll parents who have been thrust into the role of home educator. Division Heads reach out and respond to parents constantly. Our partnership with parents is always strong and continues to be essential to student performance.
Even with remote education, we continue to hold to the commitment Carroll School makes to its families. We will work as hard as humanly possible to give each child what that child most needs. It is way better in person. No question. But GECCO principles seem to be serving our students reasonably well during these challenging months.
- Distance Learning