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State of the School Address: Update and Distance Learning 3/20/20

March 20, 2020 | Thomas Postema

Note: below is the transcript of Mr. Postema’s address on March 20, 2020. It comes at the end of the first week of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hello,  Mustard Seed School community. I’m home, as you are, working, meeting, and living in ways I never thought possible two months ago.

This school year has taken a surprising turn as we navigate this unprecedented pandemic. Thank you for your flexibility, hard work, and sacrifices to care for our students. I know that each of you is affected differently by these challenging times. Michele and I lived through self-isolation in Asia during both the SARS and the H1N1 outbreaks. So I can tell you definitively that this will end. We will eventually return to school and normality. We will get through this together.

The Leadership team and I have been carefully watching the information coming out of the NJ Department of Health, the CDC,  and our local government. Like all of you, we are seeing conflicting information about how long we should practice social distancing. Given what we know,  We have decided that we will continue distance learning until at least April 21, when we are expected back from spring break. If anything changes, I will let you know.

Now here’s an update on how we’ve been implementing distance learning at Mustard Seed and what to expect in the days ahead. Our faculty and staff have mobilized over the last few weeks and have made good plans. I have confidence in their ability to navigate this new territory. They are thoughtful, caring, and excellent at their craft.

Distance learning in all forms requires a lot of work. It requires extra work from the teachers, and extra work from you, parents. Together, we will keep the learning going. It is a partnership.

Preschool teachers have been sending out emails to parents every day with a mixture of videos of worship and stories, math and literacy activities, and other enrichment activities.

Lower School teachers sent work home last week and have been corresponding about school work and plans with parents through email. We’re currently working toward implementing Seesaw as an online tool to make this flow a little better.

Middle School teachers and students have been seamlessly collaborating on Google Classroom, as well as taking advantage of video and other online tools. The lessons have been going very well.

I’m inspired by all of you. It has taken heroic efforts to juggle home, school, and work. Many of you have multiple children who are working at very different levels of independence.  It hasn’t been easy. This has been a week where we have all been adjusting, finding our routines, and responding to the evolving situation. We’re learning how to be together even when we have to be apart.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge that for some of you, the amount of school work feels like it’s too much. For others, it feels like it’s not enough.  We’re working to address your needs and to serve you and the children well. To find the balance. Teachers are available every day via email. Many staff are taking advantage of Google Meet or Zoom. I am certainly always available to address your concerns.

You will continue to receive regular email updates from us. This Week @ Mustard Seed will still arrive on Mondays. And the directors and  I will be in touch as needed.

We’re also working on ways to connect as a wider community. We’re thinking about our social, emotional, and spiritual needs.  We’re increasing our postings on social media and blogs. We’re hoping to be a resource to you and to others. We plan to use these channels to show you what our students and teachers are doing. And as a way for us to have a dialog about how we’re managing the times. To share stories of hope. We know that there are good things that will come out of this, even though there are challenges.

To that end, I want to invite you to share your stories with us. Send us photos of your children or family. Tell us what you’re doing, how you’re coping.  Take a little video. Engage with us on Instagram and Facebook. We need to stay connected. Abby Liu, our Director of Marketing and Communications is spearheading this effort. ([email protected])

Our mission to inspire minds, cultivate hearts, and remove barriers is as strong as ever. We continue to know and care for each other and the world. Please know that I’m thinking of you and your children. I pray for you every day. The faculty and staff continue to pray for you. I ask that you pray for us. As I said at the beginning of this address, I have been through this before. It can feel very long, but it does end.

I want to end with a time of prayer. Will you join me?

Oh God our help in ages past
Our hope for years to come
Our shelter from the stormy blast
And our eternal home

We pray for those who are sick and those who minister to them
We pray for our students as they learn in news ways
We pray for parents who learn to serve in different roles
We pray for teachers as they work to engage students remotely
We pray for those whose work is affected and for those who can’t work at all.
We pray for our government–local, state and national–as they make decisions. Give them the discernment that they need to seek the common good.

Thank you, God, that we are together even when we are apart. May we feel each other’s support and care even when the physical distance is far.

Bring us back together again soon, we pray.

Amen.

Stay well.

Thomas Postema

Head of School

An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema has taught math and been a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students!

Since arriving back at Mustard Seed in 2011 as Head of School, Mr. Postema has successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and is passionate about the mission to serve families from all walks of life.

Mr. Postema’s three children attended Mustard Seed and he would love it if his three grandchildren lived close enough to be students at the school. An avid traveler, Mr. Postema has visited over 30 countries in his adventures abroad.

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