An Open Letter to Our Parents

Good morning!  I understand that different families are asking for different things for their children.  I’m trying to carefully balance the wants and needs of each family in the time that I have available.  I’d like to take the time to provide everyone with a few updates on what we’re doing and how that affects your child.  

Additional Classes
Many of you may have noticed that your child has access to more classes in their courses menu.  This is not an error.  Parents asked for more work, so we made it happen.  Most of your children have access to 2 – 3 classes per class that they were enrolled in.  Additional math classes may include geometry, measurement and data, and statistics.  These vary depending upon which level class your child was enrolled in.  Language arts students have access to an additional grammar class and vocabulary class.  I’m still working on additional vocabulary classes for some of the students.  It takes a tremendous amount of time to put together this curriculum and upload it to the website. 

Students are now able to (or will soon be able to) access more lessons per week than we’d often be able to cover in our weekly classes.  We realize that many of the parents are dissatisfied with the curriculum that they’re getting from school.  It’s too easy.  It’s not taking students much time for students to  complete it.  The kids need something to do.  We’re trying to provide you with more resources, but we’re not a full day school.  Your child’s class was meant to meet for 2 hours per week.  We simply cannot provide access to unlimited curriculum.  Recommendations show that a full 6-hour day of school can be completed in about 2-3 hours at home.  

Grading
Many parents were bothered by the need to wait for us to approve and grade assignments before their child could move forward.  We have been grading three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday).  We’ll continue to do so. 

I’m testing some things.  For now, some of these additional enrichment courses (like the vocabulary and grammar review classes) are set to auto-approve. Yes, this means that your child can instantly move to the next assignment for that course.  This functionality is available for courses in which one lesson doesn’t necessarily require mastery of the previous.  For example, if your child doesn’t understand one word of the week 1 vocabulary list, they’ll still be able to complete week 2.  For the math classes, students simply must understand one concept to understand the next.  For many of our writing classes, students must be able to understand the material and/or plan their writing to successfully write a longer piece.  For example, writing a story requires planning out a plot.  If the child doesn’t have a climax in their plot map, their story will also lack a climax.

I’ll see how it works out over the next two weeks and determine whether or not this will work for the relevant courses.  These additional classes have only been available for a few days, and I’ve already received a number of blank submissions, math homework submitted for language arts assignments, and hastily completed incorrect work for these classes.  Moving forward without correctly completing the work — and taking the time to check one’s answers — is a wasted effort.  The goal of a worksheet is not to “get something on the paper.”  These activities are designed to allow your child to learn and practice a concept. 

I will review these auto-approved assignments, but they won’t be reviewed three days a week like other assignments.  I simply cannot review and grade nine or more assignments per week per child.  I have 7 classes of students, enrolled in 2-3 online courses each. Ms. Voit has 8 classes of students, enrolled in 2-3 online courses each.  Auto-approved classes also do not mean unlimited content.  I’ve planned for three assignments per week for the grammar courses and five assignments per week for the vocabulary courses.  If your child completes the grammar review at a faster pace, they’ll simply be done with the course earlier.  The same applies to our math classes.

Video Classes
We tried our first group video chat this past weekend.  We started with one of our older classes (Algebra I).  It was GREAT to see our students again, but it didn’t go as smoothly as I would have hoped.  Both Ms. Voit and I were online for this video “class,” and I don’t foresee being able to run a video class without both of us present for technical and liability purposes.  Many of the students in this class have been with us for quite a few years, and they’re probably our least “fidgety” class; however, the overall attention level in the video call was less than ideal.  Kids were rolling on the floor, watching videos on their tablets, and distracted by other phone conferences in the household.  I was, however, pleased by the attendance!   Almost all of the students logged on for the video call which seems to be a much higher level of participation than other teachers across the state/nation are reporting. The students seemed to enjoy the chance to socialize after the “class” was over. 

It was a learning experience.  I’m going to try a “video class” with a few more classes this week.  The relevant classes will receive information tomorrow.  We’ll see how it goes. We’re also awaiting the delivery of some document cameras to use for the video conferences, but the shipment is back-ordered right now.  

If your child is participating in a video class with us, it’s very helpful if you can remove other distractions.  This includes other family members on video calls, televisions, additional devices, etc.  If you have a younger child, please expect to be available during the video call to help out with any technical issues that may arise.   We highly recommend using a Windows computer if possible as most of the technical difficulties seemed to be isolated to Mac users.

Library Check-out
This is just a reminder that library books must be reserved by 5 PM on April 29th if you want to participate in this week’s curb-side library pickup. If I need to make any substitutions, I’ll contact you when I got to collect the books.   I’ll provide some recommendations, and your child can discuss any alternatives they’d prefer.  As a reminder, please use njgifted.libib.com to browse our library collection.  Please visit https://resources.njgifted.org/covid-19-librarycheckout to submit a library check out request.

 

You can also return library books anytime.  Right now, I have almost 400 books checked out to students.   If you are in the area, we’d really appreciate if you could return books to us so that the students participating in our curbside library check-out can borrow them (after a 2 week book quarantine!).  I put a Rubbermaid Bin in front of the new building.  The address is 3059 Englishtown Road in Monroe Twp, NJ.  You can use this bin to return library books and/or donate children’s books that you no longer want or need.  If you drop books off, please let me know so that I don’t leave books outside for too long.  It is a sealed bin, but humidity and books don’t get along for too long!

Library Check-Out Requests must be submitted by Wednesday, April 29th @ 5:00 PM to pick up books on Saturday, May 2nd We’ll contact you to schedule a specific pick-up time.  

 

Sincerely,

 

Miss Danielle

Director

HEROES Academy

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