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State of the School 4/3/2020 Distance Learning Update

April 3, 2020 | Thomas Postema

Note: below is the transcript of Mr. Postema’s address on April 3, 2020. It comes at the end of the third week of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Welcome, Mustard Seed Community,

I don’t know how you’re feeling, but I feel like March was one of the longest months of my life! It was a month of unexpected challenges for all of us. I want to thank you for your grace and patience, and for all of the hard work that you and your children have put into distance learning this week. 

Governor Murphy has indicated that he will not make any decisions about opening schools until April 17. Until then, we don’t know if we’re planning for short-term or long-term distance learning. However, we’re already making plans if distance learning is extended. 

In the meantime, we’re building this distance learning bicycle while we’re also riding it. We’ve had to react quickly and nimbly. It’s exhausting. It feels like we’re always living on edge. Let me reassure you that it will get better.

Many of you filled out the surveys that we sent out last week. Thank you! Program Directors and teachers are adjusting our distance learning program based on your feedback. 

In the Early Childhood Division, we’ve consolidated our modes of communication. Zoom class meetings have been filling a need for connection with teachers and friends. We’re building routines so that we can provide learning options at developmentally appropriate levels without causing additional stress to families who are juggling work and school support. 

In the Lower School, we’ve simplified learning plans, and added Zoom meetings so that students and teachers feel more connected. And we’re experimenting with new ways to teach math. 

In the Middle School, we’ve heard that students have felt like school at home is all of the work with none of the fun. We know that Middle School students need autonomy, competency, fun, and relationship. Teachers are finding ways to bring these aspects of teaching and learning to online learning. This week teachers have added more “live” classes as well as pre-recorded lessons. 

I want to share a few highlights from the week. On Monday seventh grade students presented their science exhibitions in a Zoom setting. They shared their research about the human body and the models that they made of the system they studied. Their exhibitions were informative, creative, researched, and amazing!

This week I zoomed into both Kindergarten classes during a morning meeting. Seeing your students and hearing Mr. Cuervo’s laugh was good for my soul.  Wednesday was April first, and I joined the Mountains and Meadows class meetings for Joke Time. It was great to laugh (and groan) when I heard some classic jokes and riddles.

And of course today was the Palm Celebration led by the kindergarten classes. Did you see it? We didn’t have real palm branches, and we couldn’t be with each other in our usual way. But we still celebrated together with a video of the Kindergarten students who reminded us that “Jesus is King!” “Hosannah!” 

Even in the midst of the corona virus crisis, Jesus is King. 

In my video address two weeks ago, I mentioned that Michele and I experienced social distancing in Asia during the SARS and H1N1 epidemics. I can affirm that NOW is the point when you start to grieve the losses, both large and small. Our emotions hit us at different moments. They come out in different ways. And It. Is. Hard. 

If you’re looking for more information on grief and anxiety, or mental health, particularly related to the COVID-19 crisis, we’ve put together a list of articles and resources. I hope that these are helpful to you. You can find them in the new Distance Learning /COVID-19 section of our school website. 

I want to encourage you to reach out to me or to someone in our school community if you need help of any kind or if you’re feeling overwhelmed. You are not alone. I have received prayer requests and updates from many of you. Please know that I’m praying for you. Our staff are praying for you. We are a community. We are in this togetherWe worship a God who knows us and cares for us, who is in the struggle with us.  In the words of the kindergarten students: “Remember that Jesus is King!”

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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