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Dyanthe's Weekly Letters

Week of April 26, 2021

Dear Families,

With only nine weeks of school remaining, we are beginning to prepare for the end of the school year like no other. As I have previously shared, we are not making any more changes to our blended model at this point in the year. Throughout this unpredictable ordeal, TNS has programmed the school to provide all students’ consistency for the school year. We were able to offer additional opt-in periods because we intentionally created classes so that students and teachers stay together and have equitable access to instruction and teachers, regardless of remote-only or blended choices. 

That said, the mayor has stated that schools will return to 5-days a week this fall. While we do not know yet what that will look like, it is certainly the approach we are taking as we begin to plan for next year. We will be holding a series of listening meetings with families at our May and June PTA meetings to solicit feedback and ideas as we prepare for the fall. I very much hope you will be able to join us for these important conversations. As we shift to planning for the fall, I want to a share letter written by Teresa Thayer Snyder, a former superintendent of the Voorheesville district in upstate New York. I found her wisdom to be inspiring and true. I hope that we can hold onto these ideas as we begin to plan for September... however that looks! 


Dear Friends and Colleagues,
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I am writing today about the children of this pandemic. After a lifetime of working among the young, I feel compelled to address the concerns that are being expressed by so many of my peers about the deficits the children will demonstrate when they finally return to school. My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic that is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return. In our determination to “catch them up,” I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on? The models no longer apply, the benchmarks are no longer valid, the trend analyses have been interrupted. We must not forget that those arbitrary measures were established by people, not ordained by God. We can make those invalid measures as obsolete as a crank-up telephone! They simply do not apply. When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. 
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When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned. Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year. Their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with a missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history. 
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I sincerely plead with my colleagues, to surrender the artificial constructs that measure achievement and greet the children where they are, not where we think they “should be.” Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year. Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you. 
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Resist the pressure from whatever ‘powers that be’ who are in a hurry to “fix” kids and make up for the “lost” time. The time was not lost, it was invested in surviving a historic period of time in their lives—in our lives. The children do not need to be fixed. They are not broken. They need to be heard. They need to be given as many tools as we can provide to nurture resilience and help them adjust to a post-pandemic world. 
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Being a teacher is an essential connection between what is and what can be. Please, let what can be demonstrated that our children have so much to share about the world they live in, and in helping them make sense of what, for all of us has been unimaginable. This will help them– and us– achieve a lot more than can be measured by any assessment tool ever devised. Peace to all who work with the children! 


Lastly, our school will partner with University Settlement this summer to provide free in-person summer programming for students, Kindergarten - 5th grade. Please join us at this Tuesday’s PTA meeting (see below) to discuss this and more. As well, District 1 Superintendent Carry Chan and D1 CED President Naomi Peña will host a Summer Rising informational meeting on May 6 at 5:30 p.m. to share details about Summer Rising. You can also visit the DoE website for more information: https://www.schools.nyc.gov/enrollment/summer. 

With Love, Dyanthe

Dyanthe's Weekly Letters

Week of April 12, 2021

Dear Families,

Construction on the 4th Street playground is moving along nicely! Our in-person students excitedly inspect progress each day. Our new playground is finally taking shape and is looking like it’s going to be a huge improvement. I’ve included a recent picture and the final plan below. Although we do not have an official completing date yet, we have been told that they anticipate a ribbon-cutting event in early September.

Students begin art classes next week with Studio in a School artists Leigh Ruple and Mildor Chevalier. All classes will be virtual, and for those classes with two cohorts, in-person kids and teacher(s) will log on from the classroom, either on their devices or using an interactive whiteboard. We will also distribute art kits to all remote families beginning next week. As well, garden activities are gearing up and some classes will be planting in the classroom and we will distribute home planting kits for families to grow plants at home.

A note to in-person families: We are making some changes to the line-up protocol so that families can maintain social distancing while waiting for the gates to open. We ask that families line up on a sunflower. At 8:35 AM, we will open the gates. We will send kids to their line-up spots on a first-come basis instead of waiting for teachers to arrive.

Have a good week.

With Love,

Dyanthe

Dyanthe's Weekly Letters

Week of March 22, 2021

Dear Families,

TNS teachers continue to have conversations with students in response to on-going Anti-Asian violence in this country and teach about Asian American history and identity. Parents must also engage in conversation about race and racism with their children. I am sharing an event happening Wednesday evening, Violence Against Asian Americans: How Do We Support the Children, sponsored by the group Embrace Race that may also support anti-racist actions and solidarity. I also encourage all of our parents of color and white parents of children of color to join our monthly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color) support group. The next meeting is Thursday, March 25 at 5 PM. Here’s the link to register.

On Friday afternoon, the mayor announced that, due to new CDC guidance around social-distancing in schools, the DoE would change its policy. We have yet to receive any direction from the DoE about implementing these changes. As you know, TNS’s last opt-in period begins the week of April 12. At this time, we are planning to open second cohorts in Mara/Shaniqua, Amann/Shaquawn, Erin/Wanda, Catlin/Emily, and Jane/Chelsea’s classes to maintain social distancing in classrooms. I hope to notify families about their cohort assignments by the end of the week.

I am happy to share that we received funding for K - 5th grades to have seven weeks of Studio in a School, TNS’s arts partner, beginning the week of April 19. This is an excellent opportunity for our students to continue the arts, and I am very excited about working with Studio teaching artists Leah Ruple and Mildor Chevalier. They are longtime Studio teachers and have been working with students all this year. All classes will be virtual during school time, and for those classes with two cohorts, in-person kids and teacher(s) will log-on from the classroom, either on their devices or using an interactive whiteboard. Teaching artists will also assemble art kits to distribute to families.

I hope that you have a good Spring Break with your family.

With Love,

Dyanthe

Dyanthe's Weekly Letters

Week of March 15, 2021

Dear Families,

Several families have reached out to me recently to inquire about plans to return to school in September.  We all want some certainty as we try to plan, but they’re still many unknowns, and we need to await further guidance from the CDC, the mayor, and DoE before making our plans.  As our new Chancellor, Meisha Porter, reiterated last week, “Yes, schools need to know. Families need to know. Right now, I don’t have the answer….  We have to lean into conversations with principals, with teachers, and with families around what they need from us.”  

The health and safety of all community members are our overall priority.  As such, we will continue to follow CDC and DoE guidelines, including wearing masks, frequent hand washing, weekly testing, and social distancing.  Please remember that most of our classrooms can only accommodate 9 - 11 people safely at this time.  Once the DoE shares new programming and policy guidelines, we can begin to plan together for September.

Best,

Dyanthe

Dyanthe's Weekly Letters

Week of March 8, 2021

Dear Families,

Sorry... I forgot to post on Monday! ; )

I want to highlight current work happening in classrooms because it illustrates how students and teachers create curriculum that is responsive to the classroom community’s needs and interests, the events in our world and is rooted in social justice.

  • Students learned about change-makers like Martin Luther King Jr., Georgia Gilmore, Rosa Parks, Fred Hampton, and Wangari Maathai in a kindergarten and first-grade classroom. The class then thought about how they could be change-makers in our community and decided to make ‘The Little Free Food Pantry.’  Families in the neighborhood can take what they need and leave what they can.  Mara, one of their teachers, built the pantry with her woodworking teacher, and the class organized donations.  I have attached pictures of the pantry, which is in the 3rd Street Garden, and the posters students made to advertise in the school and neighborhood. 

  • Students read biographies about people who have shared their passions and light in the world in a second and third-grade class. The students were especially captivated by the story of Arab architect Zaha Hadid, who designed buildings inspired by the natural world and faced sexism and racism in having her buildings built despite winning multiple competitions. The class decided to design and build a city of their own (on a small scale).  Last week, an architect came to present various buildings inspired by different purposes. In the end, the teachers chose food (this is another class study this year) as the theme, and the students have been designing buildings inspired by food.  This coming week, TNS parent David Stadler will come to speak to them about building our designs!

  • A fourth and fifth-grade class is beginning the read-aloud, How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle.  It is a Choctaw story about a boy’s experience on the Trail of Tears, which they have been studying in Social Studies.  As a part of this study, the class has a virtual field trip scheduled with the National Museum of the American Indian. Museum educators will speak to the class about the Native American experience during the Removal Act of 1830 time period. 

TNS offers a progressive education model that values student intellectual and emotional development and encourages students to take active roles in their learning.  This rich environment would not be possible if not for our teachers and our school’s commitment to providing authentic and meaningful learning experiences for children.  And it is not possible when teachers have to balance the demands of preparing students for the State tests.  At most public schools, test prep forms a significant part of the class curriculum, especially at this time of year.  Students learn how to fill out bubble sheets; teachers focus closely on materials covered in the tests; and there is little time for open, explorative, authentic learning.  Here are some essential links to help you make your decision about opt-in out of the NY State tests this year:

Warm Regards,

Dyanthe

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