Accentuate the positive

Dear Fairfield Center School Families:

 Well, it’s been one heck of a start, hasn’t it?  I feel that it’s time for me to reach out with some helpful information.  There was a necessary overload of communication starting last Saturday, so I decided to wait until today.

  • In the first six weeks of school, educational best practice is to prioritize building relationships with our students.  

    • Academic loads tend to start lighter and get heavier as we get to know the students.

    • The payoff is that we know the students, their needs, and their preferences as we design our instruction.

  • There is no state of emergency in Vermont right now.  

  • We do not currently have the option of counting absences as “remote learning” days for attendance purposes.  

  • This has the following implications:

    • Teachers will not be asked to provide a full-day’s worth of work for children in quarantine as they did last year during hybrid learning.  

      • The reason we sent home as much work as we did last year was to ensure that the day could be counted as a day in attendance, which is no longer an option in Vermont. This is not within our district's control.

      • Parents alternately felt that there was not enough work or too much work last year.  

    • During a quarantine, you can expect some sort of check-in via Zoom or phone call.  You can also expect some work.  

      • That said, we had been in school for three days when our quarantines began.  

      • Many of our teachers were just meeting and starting to build relationships with their new students.  

      • A full day’s work to complete at home is not a reasonable expectation; it never was.  We did what we had to last year, but again, it is certainly not best practice.

      • A familiar example is from back in the days when we got chicken pox. Some children would be absent, some would be in school, but our teachers never tried to send us home with five hours of work each day.  

At Conscious Discipline training this year, I was reminded how helpful it can be to reframe experiences in terms of the positives that come from them.  My childhood hero Mr. Rogers once said that his mom would tell him when big things happen to “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”  I have seen many examples of helpers stepping up so far this year.  

  • During this most recent quarantine, our teachers and support staff were on the roads delivering computers to families.  

  • Our custodian, Debby, is out for a bit; our entire staff has come together to help Albert clean the restrooms, vacuum carpets, sweep and mop floors, and sanitize high-touch surfaces.  

  • Every day, I get to see many of you in the car line. Your smiles and waves, and especially those of your children, are the best part of my job. That is helpful in ways that are difficult to describe.

While we are not having the year I had hoped we would, I am choosing to focus on the positives.  I thank the entire community for joining me in that.  We’ve got this!


Heather Ann O'Dell