Everything is Different, Everything is the Same

Dear Friends,
As a writer, I am seldom at a loss for words. However, as the events of this past week have unfolded, the speed and profundity of change has challenged even my exceptional verbosity. Like many of you, I prepared to homeschool my three kids this week with a wary combination of apprehension and dread. As a member of the Parker administrative team, I knew we were doing everything possible to prepare. However, I simply couldn’t picture what it would look like in real time…until Tuesday morning.
What we have seen unfurl this past week in our children’s educational journeys has been nothing short of heroic and magical. At a time when the rest of our nation, and arguably our world, is gripped with uncertainty and fear, Parker students and their families are experiencing a continuity of programming and community that is priceless.
It is impossible to quantify the energy and preparation our exceptional faculty at Parker have poured into preparing for the days and weeks ahead. Teachers have had to modify lesson plans, in many cases creating brand new content and delivery in a matter of days, and they have done it all with their characteristic Parker ingenuity and grit. Laura Graceffa, our head of school, reflected on our collective preparations, saying the following:
“I know that many of our teachers are starting this process with their anxiety super high. However, the kids are starting in their happy place. Their level of excitement matches our level of nerves, and we want to use that. The kids will give us energy back. In many ways, this reminds me of our preparation in leading up to the first days of school. You have all this angst and nervousness about not being prepared, but then the kids walk through the door and we immediately know what to do. That is why Parker teachers are such professionals. At the end of the day, I am not so worried about a child not learning enough math or the right math. I am worried about a child no longer feeling like a math student. That is our ultimate goal — for our children to feel like they are still Parker students.”
This week, students across all grade levels definitely still felt like Parker students. Teachers spent their first few online sessions with each class doing the social and emotional work (to help process these events) that sets Parker apart from so many other schools. Students talked within their classes about what is different and what is the same about online learning. Their responses were both thoughtful, funny, and poignant. In K-1, one student reflected, “There is no classroom. There are no tables. I still get to see my friends, but the outside is different.” Another child reminded the class, “But now you can eat on the carpet!” before a third chimed in saying “I can bring my toys to class, but I miss playing with my friends.” Missing friends was a sentiment echoed across the board in every grade level. At the same time, students of all ages recognized that despite physical separation, they are all still “together”.
Here at Parker, we are used to defining ourselves by the tangible things that fill our school with joyful energy: the enthusiastic faces of our learners, our 77-acre campus, teachers who are so warm and approachable they feel instantly like old friends. So, who are we without the things that once defined us? First and foremost, we are a school who cares about preserving continuity and community in the lives of our children. We put students first. We always have, and we always will. We are champions of resilience and academic flexibility. Children are learning that they too can deal with hard things, and they are doing it while still challenging themselves intellectually as self-directed learners. We know that when we partner with families (and truly, you have all been AMAZING), we are weaving a community fabric that can hold each child up, envelope them in safety, and allow them to shine. We are stronger because we have each other, and when we come back, we will be stronger for having gone through this together. 
With deep gratitude and love for my Parker community,
Andrea Hartman