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Framework for the PBS Distance Learning Program

Key goals and intentions

  • Cohesive, school-wide schedule model for distance learning to enhance predictability and support for students and families
  • Capitalizing on the expertise of our highly skilled faculty to guide and direct student learning
  • Designing a structure for distance education to optimize teacher instruction and interaction time with students
  • More consistency and clear expectations school-wide to minimize variations between classes and grades
  • Predictable general timeframes with elasticity built-in so teachers can maximize educational opportunities supporting child development at different ages and stages

Two-fold framework

Common anchor points: General timeframes for the major points in the day so that students and families have predictability and routine and so the school is moving together in concert. Teachers will also need some flexibility to pivot in the moment because it’s the right thing for students, and we trust you will understand this need.

Common elements: What each K-5 classroom will provide each day and week consistently. As we work hard to translate the PBS approach education into a distance learning model, we also request flexibility so the faculty can capitalize on important academic opportunities that come up last-minute in the virtual classroom.

Common anchor points

9:00 a.m. School start time with daily Morning Meeting
11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. Mid-day break
3:20 p.m. Daily Closing Circle concludes as close to this time as possible
Friday by 6:00 p.m. Class schedule for the following week sent to families

Common elements

Instruction averages 17-18 hours per week (over five days).
Two-thirds or so by lead teachers and one-third or so by specialists.

Definition of instruction in the PBS Distance Learning Program:
Teachers being present virtually for their students to guide meaningful learning with a balance of live instruction, recorded instruction, group work, and student office hours.

Instruction includes a balance of math, literacy, emotional intelligence, and specialist subjects, as well as Morning Meeting and Closing Circle.

Individual work outside of instruction time allows students to focus on the curriculum and advance their learning based on guidance from teachers. Faculty will structure how that can best work based on the ages and stages in child development.

The Early Learning Center (ELC)

Distance learning is an especially challenging model for our youngest learners in preschool and pre-Kindergarten. The ELC team compiled a series of resources and created a slide deck to support the first weeks of school closure for our youngest learners. They’ve also created an ELC storytime library with teachers reading favorite stories aloud for the children. The team is continuing to build on this foundation, and they have shifted their energies to creating more opportunities for children to spend online time with each other and their teachers through virtual hangouts and digestible age-appropriate connection times (both morning and afternoon). This schedule is more fluid by nature since independent use of technology for these learners has obvious limitations. The school has a rotation schedule with all the different teachers in the ELC to host live meetings. We will be offering additional optional drop-in times to provide some relief for families and caregivers. The entire ELC team is adaptable, gathering input every day from families and adjusting accordingly.

Expectations

What we need from our students and families

  • We need our students to show up for online school ready to learn, just as they show up to their campus classrooms – as much as possible. We want them to get a good night’s sleep, have a good breakfast, brush their teeth, get dressed (not in uniform, necessarily, but not in pajamas either), and be ready to pay attention. This routine will prepare your children to maximize their learning for the entire school day.

  • Our new framework is an important school routine to sustain distance learning excellence in light of our extended school closure through May 4. We need families to do their best to get into this important learning routine.

  • Teachers are learning the work pace of both students and themselves in our distance learning model. We also understand that children learn at different rates. We need students to be focused on their work but also understand that there may be other priorities at home.

  • PBS is providing both synchronous and asynchronous distance learning. We know from best practices that this balance is helpful for students, amplifies routine in a school day, and supports various family needs. Please note that the amount of live teaching may depend on the age of your child. Some instructional times will be recorded so that students can access these lessons at a later time.

  • We all need to be thoughtful about the kinds of online tools we ask students to use. For younger students, we will attempt to be consistent in only using a few different tools so they can master them. For older students, we will use tools with which they are familiar, while using synchronous learning time to introduce new tools to them as needed.

  • There are times allotted for breaks within the schedule (brain breaks, lunch, and more) and for independent reading and work – times when teachers are not expected or available to guide student learning. Teachers use these times in the schedule to prepare lessons, as well as to recharge and refuel before returning to the classroom. Please encourage your children to demonstrate their abilities and foster independence. Here is a link of resources to use at home during these break times.

  • Teachers are experiencing a high volume of emails. They will aim to reply within 24 hours during the workweek, and we appreciate your understanding and patience when that is not possible.

Expectations for technology and an “online presence”

  • Remind students that everything we do online leaves a footprint. Anything we do or say online we should be comfortable doing or saying in public.
  • Students need to understand how to protect their private information and avoid oversharing online.
  • Communications between students and adults are always an “open-door” experience with devices in a public part of the home. 
  • Students need to share their emails, work, communications with their parents. They should check with parents before reaching out directly to teachers.
  • We want to encourage students to balance online time with other activities. This is especially important in light of the ramp-up in our online presence with distance learning.

Live instruction and recorded instruction

We also want to say a few words about live instruction vis-à-vis recorded instruction. Both can be meaningful and have their advantages. We believe that students, particularly now, are craving live time with teachers because their worlds have been turned upside down. At the same time, we are also doing recorded instruction in some areas for three main reasons:

  • Recorded lessons give us the ability to sustain student stamina and teach abstract concepts because they allow for re-teaching with differentiation and to re-emphasize key concepts. This is more of an issue for younger learners at PBS and for reaching learners who need extra support, e.g., recorded instruction allows Lea and Amy (our learning specialists) to reinforce certain concepts.
  • Recorded lessons diminish some of the distraction factor for younger learners.
  • Recorded lessons allow us to accommodate requests from families who are not able to stay in step with our schedule with the caveat, as I have said, that we need to draw boundary lines particularly in light of the demand on our faculty’s time.

Closing notes and next steps

Our goal is to create a program that provides the learning tools and instruction that are as close as possible to a normal school day, but online. We’re not there yet but getting closer every day. We believe this new model puts us on a good path with our commitment to deliver the PBS mission and educational plan. We are doing school differently and are committed to growing excellence in PBS distance learning. As we have reflected, the challenges have been primarily these:

  • Translating the PBS approach to education, which works beautifully in the classroom setting, into a distance learning model
  • Doing school differently while also ensuring that necessary logistics, infrastructure, and technologies are appropriately harnessed as tools supporting the program – all with little time to appropriately beta-test
  • Creating an organizing structure and system for the faculty’s extensive curriculum work so we can focus on student-teacher interaction, guided instruction, and schedule predictability during the day
  • Balancing appropriate flexibility and empathy with some level of accountability for students
  • Teachers balancing their family and personal responsibilities at home, just like all PBS families are doing, while also being available to their students and families

We also want you to know what we’re focused on. Nothing is final, and we are constantly thinking ahead in this ever-changing environment:

  • How to reframe our assessment practices to best monitor academic growth
  • Tools and technology enhancements to add, such as an adaptive learning platform for math learning and instruction
  • Re-imagining hallmark all-school events and full-classroom experiences to keep students excited about their learning even when away from one another
  • Possible summer learning opportunities to ensure that students are well prepared students for the next grade level
  • Constant discussions and planning if school closure needs to extend beyond May 4 so that we are prepared for all eventualities

Thank you for your partnership!