A Small School is Just What the Doctor Ordered

We’ve all heard the saying that big ships take time to turn around. It’s often used a metaphor to discuss how hard change can be, and how painfully slow it is. To extend the metaphor just a bit, what we’ve seen over the last few months in schools resembles a cruise ship, set on its course, and forced to leave the wide-open ocean for a small river.

But a large cruise ship was not made to sail on a small river, so the ship has had to throw out cargo to make itself lighter and to put captains behind the wheel who are not familiar with the territory or the unique aspects of sailing on a river. Some of the captains try to sail the cruise ship just as they would on the ocean, and it seems to keep them moving in the desired direction, but not as quickly and not as effectively, and a few passengers get off here and there because they aren’t really sure what’s happening. And none of the amenities that were a draw to the ship in the first place (such as fun ports of docking) are relevant right now because the cruise ship isn’t operating as a cruise ship; it’s a makeshift river boat.

When the shift was made to remote learning a couple of months ago, a few articles (such as this one) came out talking about how this is not representative of what online or distance or remote learning is or could be. Author and educator AJ Juliani coined the term (in a blog) coined the term “Emergency Remote Teaching” to represent that this shift happened almost overnight with very little preparation, just like a cruise ship being forced to sail down a river.

Some cruise ships and captains are better adapted to sail rivers. Some destinations are easier to access that way. And some passengers maybe wanted a river cruise but just didn’t know it until it was forced upon them. But, for the most part, a cruise ship is a cruise ship, and it takes a long time (and a lot of resources) to make it a good river boat.

As a brand-new school opening its doors for the first time ever in August, we find ourselves in an interesting position amidst the coronavirus pandemic. To our knowledge, we are the only school in the Denver area opening this year, which means that we are the only school in the Denver area able to craft our program to exactly meet the needs of students and family at this exact time and in this exact situation instead of having to try to turn a large ship already set in its path.

We don’t have teachers who have taught the same thing (in the same way) for decades and are committed to continuing to do so.

We don’t have a long-established framework or infrastructure that we have to figure out how to adapt.

We don’t have a huge facility that we need to figure out how to maintain (and pay for).

We don’t have a school culture of how things have always been.

We DO have a faculty that is excited to try new and different.

We DO have an innovative mindset that looks for opportunities.

We DO have a very flexible space that we can adjust to fit our needs.

We DO keep what’s best for students at the center at all times.

We already felt our small size and individualized approach would be a benefit to students, and now it’s essential as we consider what is best for ongoing students growth during this time:

  • Our focus on meeting all children where they are is a perfect way to get kids who have been out of school for months back on track.

  • Our small class sizes will make it easier for students to adjust back to being in a school setting in a supported way and will enable a high level of differentiation to best support students at various levels in the fall.

  • Our commitment to families means that we will truly support all parents and students over the coming months and years.

  • As a small, innovative school environment, we’ll be easily able to pivot in response to any needs that arise between now and the opening of the school.

For us, as of now, it also means that we are currently planning for full-time in-person learning, based on the guidelines established by the Governor and the CDC. Our classroom set up and flexible use of space as well as commitment to getting students outside both allows the space for physical distancing in a way that most other schools cannot provide.

So as we look towards fall and what that might look like specifically for our kids and our schools, we are ready. Our school has a foundation of viewing changes in the external environment as opportunities. We proactively seek new initiatives created by change. Rather than focusing on preserving the traditional education system, we constantly consider what is best for our students and families and how to support that goal.

When it comes to sailing down a river, you just can’t beat a river boat.

For more information on how we’re preparing for the fall, click here.

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