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State of the School 4/24/20 Distance Learning Update

April 23, 2020 | Thomas Postema

Note: below is the transcript of Mr. Postema’s address on April 24, 2020. It comes at the end of the sixth week of distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Watch to the end for messages from some Mustard Seed School families!)

Hello, Mustard Seed Community,

Next week is Spirit Week! We’re asking students, teachers, and staff to dress up each day. Join us for neon day, spirit day, pajama day, superhero day, and game day!  We’re trying to add a little whimsy and fun to the week. Take photos of you and your family in your Spirit Week outfits and send them Maya Butler. ([email protected])  She’ll post them on Mustard Seed’s social media. Or you can post photos on your own account and tag @mustardseednj.

This week in Distance Learning we’re trying out a new schedule with more live classes. We’re settling into a new, more robust routine. And we’re taking attendance in all classes from K to 8th grade. If your child is not able to attend the live class, please let your child’s teacher know.

We also ask that middle school students, in particular, show up ready for school with cameras on, and sit at a suitable workspace.

In early childhood, we’re focusing on engagement for the whole child by including live sessions with specialists, like music and art teachers. Teachers are focusing on inspiring curiosity through newly developed short-format themes that allow children to think more deeply and scientifically about the things they can observe from home like growing things, birds, and weather. Preschool classes are drawing and painting signs of spring this week just like they would have if they were in their classrooms.

The Kindergarten and PreK 4 team are building out instruction in small groups so that students can receive more personalized attention and increase their participation.

In the Lower School teachers have added office hours when students can Zoom in to ask questions and receive help. First grade has added live reading groups. Second and third grade students have been presenting their final projects for the Global Expo. They’ll restart instruction in Spanish next week. And we’ve begun using a new reading app, Rivet.

In the Middle School, we’re also trying out a new schedule. This includes

• more time for collaboration
• increased interactions with friends and peers
• additional face-to-face time with teachers
• space for asynchronous learning
• and time to work thoughtfully on assignments

Meanwhile, 8th grade students continue to work on their math exhibitions. And sixth grade students are working on their memoirs.

The learning continues!

And while we’re still waiting to hear from Governor Murphy about whether or not we will return to school this year, we’re beginning to make contingency plans for end-of-year milestone events.  I wanted to assure you we’re thinking about this and making plans for ways that we can celebrate the year together even if we have to be apart. Stay tuned for details!

Speaking of being apart…I’ve been thinking about how much I miss seeing you at school. So this week I’ve asked a few families and Mr. Cuervo to join me on this video. I’ve asked them to answer the question, “What’s bringing you joy right now?”

I’ll start! What brings me joy right now is seeing the creativity and care that Mustard Seed teachers are exhibiting in this time.

And hearing how excited students were that the “Alleluia” came out of the box this week! “The Lord has risen indeed. Alleluia!”

What brings me joy is that I get to take a walk every day with Ms. Postema! We are wearing masks, of course!

What brings you joy? Make a video of your family answering this question and send it to me. I’ll include it in a future State of the School address.

I’m thinking of you and praying for you! I look forward to the day when I can see you in person!

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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