March 20th Staff Update

  • March 20, 2020
    Dear AAPS Teachers,

    What a week!  You have persevered through an incredibly challenging and unprecedented situation. We can’t imagine navigating these twists and turns with anyone else.  Thank you for being such a strong, smart and resilient team of educators and leaders.

    Today’s message is to provide guidance on managing expectations and parent communication.

    Important Context:

    AAPS continues to face significant equity issues during the closure. We are of course beginning to address technology and Internet access, but this will take time. In addition, we have many questions to answer about English Learners, students with 504 accommodations, and special education/504 services and access.  For these and many more reasons, we will not be providing daily course instruction.  Please avoid any forward movement in your curriculum.  We have been clear about two things

    1. Send a daily positive message to your students.
    2. Post an enrichment or review learning opportunity.

    Note: Elementary Specials teachers will communicate to students on their department's assigned day of the week.

    There will be no requirement for students to turn in assignments.  There will be no grading of assignments during this time. Please stick to our guidelines and keep it simple.  The Michigan Department of Education issued a memorandum today declaring that no mechanism exists for counting instructional time in this online setting. Click here to read the memorandum.  This only serves to strengthen our approach toward simplicity and daily student connections. We realize there are many questions to be answered. MDE has promised further clarification very soon. We will be in touch.

    This week, many of you have already reached out to parents and students with reassuring messages and resources to keep students connected and engaged. We are grateful for your proactivity. Some have gone well beyond expectations posting too many activities and expectations for students and families. We know this comes from a place of care and yet, many parents and students are becoming frustrated. Please stick to our guidelines, and keep it simple. 

    Some have begun to require students to log on at the same time daily to receive learning instructions.  Ordinarily, this kind of ingenuity and connection would be applauded. However, we cannot provide synchronous online instruction at this time.  We remain in a place of sending a daily message and an enrichment or review learning activity. Open office hours for connection are absolutely acceptable. Synchronous instruction is not.   We continue to face significant equity issues and we must step together so that we can ease student frustration and reduce the stress on families.

    Beginning March 23, we will all begin sharing a daily positive message with students along with an enrichment or review learning opportunity.  For most AAPS teachers, this will take place via one of three platforms: Google Classroom, Moodle, SeeSaw. Some have opted to use a teacher website and email.  All are acceptable at this time.

    Because there is no playbook for how to teach during a global pandemic, we are discovering this together. We’ve been hearing from overwhelmed parents this week regarding the high number of emails they are receiving. We all understand that families are dealing with the needs of children, elderly loved ones, uncertain work situations, and the fear of being or becoming ill. 

    We are all feeling inundated with emails and moving into next week, we are seeking to streamline our communication and find our new normal together. 

    Here are some things to keep in mind when communicating with parents. While we have an expectation of daily communication to students, parents often have more than one child and the volume of communication they are receiving is difficult to keep up with. Here the benefit of using a learning platform stands out, where daily messages to students are posted rather than emailed.

    Together we can help to establish clarity and a degree of calm moving forward.

    Thing To Do:

    1. Condense messages to parents as often as possible, ideally once a week. Keep the message clear and simple.  Use bullets.
    2. Keep the message positive and low pressure.
    3. Give students and families a place to ask questions and receive an answer - share your office hours.
    4. Let parents know if your platform has a setting that alerts them every time you post...and help them know how to turn it off if they would like.
    5. Make sure you have updated the learning platform Google Sheet shared by your principal.  We are posting on the district web page this afternoon.

    Things NOT To Do:

    1. Overwhelm students and families with too-frequent messages.;
    2. Require parents and students to follow up and return things to you.  
    3. Overwhelm parents with lists of resources or links.  
    4. Send contradictions to what the district messaging has been.  It can be confusing and frustrating. 
    5. Expect families to be in a position to engage in home school instruction.  Do not attempt to replicate your complex teaching and learning environment with families at home.

    We are finding our new normal, and we will continue to learn lessons together.  Thank you for your patience, your integrity and ingenuity, and above all, the grace you give to each other and to us right now. It is appreciated!

    We request that each of you unplug this weekend.  Try to stay away from email and take a breather from what has been a very challenging week of transition for us all.

    Take care of yourselves!
    Teaching and Learning Council