Different Can be Good

Jill Carstens

The end of this school year brought many struggles and disappointments to parents and students. Online teaching suddenly became a norm, but one that had not been practiced much.  There were some innovators that charted new courses with this mode of education and I know one of them. My friend Susan has been holding court with her K-2 students online from 9 to 3pm. When I spoke to her during a brief pause the other day, she commented, “It’s not that much different than when we met in the classroom.”

I was amazed by this statement and the fact that she could sustain 6 hours online with the kids!  This was a credit to the work Susan had put in with her students all year. They are coached to embrace a productive self-direction, work with others and communicate effectively.  Susan does not only direct her students, they have conversations. This practice has made a transition to the screen-classroom almost effortless. 

The biggest shift the class had to make was refining their verbal skills. “In the classroom I could be more aware of children’s feelings by their body language. You can’t see everything from the screen, so the kids have had to learn how to express their feelings entirely verbally and I believe this has been a wonderfully positive result.”

My concern has been for the youngest of students whose attention spans would surely waver with the online-only environment. Susan offered that the students are accustomed to working in groups and the older children help guide the younger students. While students work in groups, Susan is able to go around and conference individually with children.

Many parents are expressing anxiety about the fall 2020 school year and how we will cope in general.  I believe Susan’s model is a great one. I still wonder about those youngest of students who were to begin kindergarten in the fall. If your child has a late birthday close to the cut-off date and is still young developmentally, delaying a year could be an option.

Brad Laurvick, our North Denver school board representative, took time to chat with me. DPS has been working with many entities including the Colorado Department of Health and Environment and has recently come up with some options for this fall, with health and safety being the number one priority. Parents will be surveyed about these choices (you may have been contacted by the time this goes to press) and DPS hopes to have decisions made by the end of June in order to prepare students and teachers.

Since online learning will still be a factor indefinitely, I asked Mr. Laurvick if teachers would be provided training for effective teaching over the Internet. He conveyed that there were ongoing opportunities for teachers to get support with this. Regardless of how DPS will proceed this fall, keeping all DPS students current with standards is the goal and that time and effort for children with special needs will be provided. He added that Facilities Management is a huge player in how a day at school might play out, factoring in the ability to sanitize in a way that is necessary during this pandemic.

It is time to think out of the box for education. I know lots of you are worrying about what will happen because of this change. As I often do, I will advise you to take a breath. It will hopefully be just one year, which in the scheme of things is not huge. We need to surrender to the fact that it will be a different year and there can always be positives that evolve out of different. But most likely, you will need to participate actively in this process. 

I encourage everyone to connect with your neighbors and the parents of your child’s schoolmates to share resources, find ways to be social in safe ways and maybe share the expense of a tutor or supplemental art class. I will be listening for the outcome of the DPS survey and continue to offer suggestions for you all as we learn to cope with the pandemic.

Jill Carstens is a proud Denver native, a passionate mom and a teacher her entire adult life! She has run Milestones Preschool here since 2011. If you have ideas for an article or further questions for Miss Jill, you can email her at jillatreadytolearn@gmail.com


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