Welcome back to the first month of a very welcomed NEW year! As a vaccination rollout is underway, we are busy continuing the health & safety protocols for all of our families, and realize that any restoration of what we once knew will now be a "new normal".
This has been, no doubt, one of the most challenging school years educators have faced,
with teachers acting as front-line workers in the biggest disruption to school ever. The complexities of shifting a curriculum to an online format demanded new ways of teaching, crash courses in technology, endless creation of new content and materials—all with the daunting challenge of engaging children in learning. Once school was back in live session, educators had to continually address the issues related to protecting students and parents, including adherence to social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing. Simple issues in the past were suddenly complex logistical matters and easing the anxiety of both children and parents became a role paramount to all.
Educators everywhere embodied resiliency and innovation, and here at HMS we believe that the core values within the Montessori method allowed us to be practice what we aim to create: critical thinkers, learners, and independent minds. Here are some of the top things our team found to be crucial to overcoming the unknowns we all faced in the last year:
Culture is determined by how people behave towards each other. We knew early on in this pandemic that success was going to be determined by a positive and empowering support system. We held several meetings a day with each other to lend insight and ideas to each of our individual challenges. Idea-sharing was critical to piecing together a manageable game plan while minimizing the feeling of overwhelm. Every idea was explored and extensive communication was encouraged. We also made sure to pay attention to each other emotionally and to be available to each other on this level.
Flexibility is crucial when routines and norms are disrupted. We always kept our end goal in mind to continue the Montessori curriculum in the circumstances before us. We left ourselves open to learning new ways to do things and not all were successful, but we quickly moved on in pursuit of the optimal methods given the circumstances.
A Sense of Community
This pandemic was not easy on anyone and for most it was the first time ever having to face rapid change in uncharted territory on a global scale. We recognized immediately within our Montessori community that we all had a shared purpose to stay safe while continuing to educate our children. We quickly set up a network of communication with our fellow Montessori educators with frequent check-ins and adaptation of successful case studies. Our tight-knit family community at HMS gave us the inspiration to keep reinventing how we communicate.
Successful teams often attribute tenets of positive psychology to a grounded and thriving team, with gratitude at the forefront. When things seemed insurmountable and the tendency was to look at all the ways things are difficult and wrong, we focused on the positives: that we were able to stay open and operational; that we were able to keep every staff member employed; that our kids were so happy to be back in class once we reopened. Our parent survey results were further affirmation that we triumphed by staying focused and positive.
We could not write this article without recognizing the leadership who guided our team with expertise and grace. Katie Cullen stepped into her new role as Director last July amidst a very difficult time to transition to such a demanding position, alongside the simultaneous appointment of Kendra Finck to Assistant Director at HMS. We are full of pride and gratitude at how they filled these roles, keeping the momentum and integrity of HMS' authentic Montessori approach intact. You can read about these appointments and their history here.
Thank you to all of our families at HMS because we could not have worked through this unprecedented pandemic and the challenges to education without your understanding and commitment!