The Interlude: JECA’s Season of Readiness for Distance Learning
Jenn CasterlineMarch 18, 2020
JECA Parents and Students,
JECA is not closed. Our building is closed. Our school is necessarily moving online. JECA advances. Welcome to the Interlude.
The faculty and staff are diligently praying for you, your work situations, your new routines, your new opportunities. We pray for the novelty of learning remotely to last and last as long as we need it to. We pray this is a downtime that you turn into a pressing-on and pressing-in time. Breathe life into social media if you have to be there. Breathe life into your family. Breathe life into your neighbors. Spread the #dontwasteyourquarantine hope. [Thanks for the hashtag, Potteigers.]
There is a lot of good that can come from newly invented tools for transmitting ideas. We have started using Zoom conferencing and have found it an important tool for the road ahead.
Beginning today we are entering a 2 ½-week interlude. Through this Friday we are finishing up standard JECA expectations. Yesterday the teachers sent you emails about the needs for each class over the coming three days. Some of you necessarily got a lot of emails…that you maybe aren’t even through reading yet. Thank you for helping us sew up the classroom content through this week.
The next two weeks are Spring Break.
In modern times, we haven’t faced a national crisis like this impacting education in this way. There have been locale-based disasters that have greatly impacted particular schools or districts, but still the waters feel untested, and I’m terribly interested in what kind of directives will still be coming from state and federal offices in the coming month and how they will affect private education. For example, Kansas this morning became the first state to definitively close all public schools for the balance of the school year, yet they still hope to find a way to offer “some semblance of learning.”
Thank you for responding to the survey I sent. It is so helpful hearing from you in that way, especially hearing about your concerns and prayer requests. There is a lot to sift through there. I want JECA to be sensitive to your concerns and expectations as we proceed.
You have many questions about what the way forward will look like. The faculty met yesterday to begin shaping the plan for the coming weeks.
Here are the main takeaways you need to hear:
- There will be a single, master document released as late as next Wednesday detailing JECA’s remote learning plan. It will include standards, protocols, expectations, technology, and class schedules. It will not include classroom content information.
- The new learning plan will be both synchronous and asynchronous. This means that some of the content will be live and some will be recorded. We think all of the content will be able to be recorded and then available if a student has to miss a session.
- You need you to begin working on the tech pieces for your home.
- Every family will need your children to be able to view streaming video on Zoom. Please add that app or extension to your phones/iPads/tablets/computers. There is no cost for anything that you need to do. When the time comes, your child will click a link to view the materials/feed. You do need to sign up to host a meeting. Feel free to use Zoom as a fun way for students to interact together via live feed and get used to the Zoom platform. We have or will give a couple of opportunities to test Zoom with teachers before April 6th so we can get much of the tech trial and error out of the way.
- The classroom experience will go so much better if your child has headphones or earbuds. It’s also greatly preferred that there is a microphone attached to the headset or earbuds/airpods. This greatly reduces distractions and aids hearing. This is absolutely necessary for siblings/twins who are in the same room watching the exact same content, but it will still be super helpful for all.
- Many/most of you will need a way to return homework. We will not accept homework back as a picture file (except perhaps some art projects). It’s so simple to turn work into a .PDF these days. Please add Adobe Scan to your phone and become familiar with its use. Some grammar school classes will expect packets to be picked up and dropped off at school.
- We may use the FACTS SIS Family Portal for classroom information, or we may be opting to put all classroom information into another portal like Google Classroom, but we want the content data to all be centralized and not coming via email. Why, “yes,” you are welcome.
This move to distance learning is not intended to be comprehensive. It is not technically possible to replicate JECA’s learning or cultural experience in this way. Attempting to provide hours of daily replacement for every classroom would overwhelm us and you. So not all of the classes your children were receiving will continue during this transition. The JECA we have been experiencing through this week ceases temporarily. A new experience begins on April 6th.
Much of what makes JECA special is our purposed, formative desires for your children. We preach over and over that our aims are transformative more than informative. We are about changing their hearts and desires BY the way we impart information. The great bulk of that is back entirely into your hands as their parents. The same great teachers you know and trust are going to be delivering the content. They still love and care, but they aren’t there to model and help in nearly the same way.
When a student misses a 60-minute lecture at JECA, we have never pretended that it can be made up with a 5-minute review. There is so much interaction on emotional, mental, and spiritual levels which can happen during that time it can’t be reproduced via a summary. We know that this medium is going to move us away from formative experiences to more content transfers. The goal of this last 19% of the school year is 1) to learn and perfect skills for which we want them to receive academic credit and 2) to help them get ready for next year.
Going forward, we want your family’s experience to be set to the tune of these themes:
Cogent ↣ Intentional ↣ Joyful ↣ Missional ↣ Simple
We call this new plan CIJMS. You pronounce it best by…just kidding. You’re never going to hear that acronym again.
In some respects we are going to new programming/content, informed by where we have come from and aimed toward what we want your children to have in hand to be ready for next school year.
The classes your child will be taking are going to be reshaped. We’ve pared down to the essential content starting with the three-R’s and adding art, Latin, and music (we hope). The plan for the first two weeks starts with these basic fundamentals.
- We expect trial and error getting our kids and teachers online during the Interlude and maybe a little longer into Week 1 of distance learning. If your child misses content, we hope that it will be recorded for them to come back to later.
- Ultimately, we expect we will be pretty good at transmitting the content and this part of the experiment will go swimmingly.
- We maybe will begin adding additional content [there is so much that could be done] after we get 2-3 weeks in. Remember, the teachers are parents also, so this process is especially cumbersome.
But Also These Things
- There is a new Facebook group that is meant for the JECA family to use to stay in touch with ideas and encouragement during this season. JECA Presses On: Life Under Quarantine and Learning at a Distance. Come find us.
- We aren’t ready to disburse our Chromebooks, but we will have some available to borrow next week from the JECA library.
- Some grammar school classes will be asking students to pick up and drop off materials at the school. We will set office hours in the coming days, but the doors are open during normal hours this week. If any family is running out of copier/blank paper, come grab a ream. We have a stack for you in the school hallway along with student pens, pencils, and notebook paper. We have a stack for you in the school hallway along with student pens, pencils, and notebook paper. You can even just come to sharpen your pencils. We have special sharpeners, “equipped with a quiet fan-cooled thermally protected motor and our finest XHC2 cutters for class leading performance.” Sometimes classical and cool smash together like that.
- We wouldn’t encourage you to coordinate this with each other, but you are welcome to come use our playground and wooded trails as you would like to take advantage of them.
One of the main missional points of JECA since the beginning is that we want to model learning for our students. Assuredly, we are all learning. Thank you for your patience, grace, and heaps and heaps of assurances that you are standing strong with our school during these turbulent times. The admin team, teachers, and I are hearing you, and we want to hear where it pinches and strains, too. If we have to go through a crisis, I’m really happy to go through it with all of you. This is so much better than Lost.
Our school hymn says, “He who would valiant be, Gainst all disaster! Let Him in constancy follow the Master.” Even so, let it be, Lord.
I’ve taped all the crevices and am sealed tight into my office until you need me,