Helping Children Feel Connected to Classmates During Remote Learning

On a recent Monday morning at Carpe Diem Preschool in Southlake, Texas, parents came by with their children to pick up remote learning packets as children inside the school stood by a window and held signs that said, “Hello” and “We miss you.”

The children holding the signs were still attending school because their parents are essential workers. They hadn’t seen their fellow classmates in person for weeks because so many are doing remote learning and teachers wanted children to see each other and share a moment of happiness with them – a rare occurrence in this time of social distance due to coronavirus precautions.

“The children had a great time making the signs and it meant a lot to the parents and children outside when they saw them,” said Gerri Kelley, the school leader. “Being able to see each other and smile lets them know that they’re still together, even if they’re temporarily apart.”

As social distance has threatened to wither away bonds and friendships, this small interaction meant a great deal to the children on both sides of the window. That’s why our teachers throughout the Endeavor Schools family have been creating ways to keep children connected and ensure that their friendships stay intact.

Across the country at more than 50 schools within the Endeavor Schools family, teachers are coming up with a variety of creative ways to keep children connected to each other.

At Endeavor Montessori, an infant through upper elementary school in Dunwoody, Georgia, all students are learning at home. To create a sense of community, teachers created a yearbook for the students and sent it as a pdf to their parents. They also wrote the names of every student on paper hearts and taped them to the glass window of the school.

School Leader Sue Hansen said her staff wanted to see the students to see each other in the yearbook and later come by the school to see their names with others in the same window.

“We truly miss our children here at Endeavor Montessori even though we see them in the virtual classrooms and we know they miss each other very much,” Hansen said. “They say ‘hi’ to each other online but we know they want nothing more than to be at school. They all love learning the Montessori way, which is relationship teaching at its finest.”

At Silverlake Montessori in Cypress, Texas, teachers are engaging children at home in fun group activities online to mimic the feel of being inside their classroom.

During a recent remote classroom session, Silverline School Leader Nikki Handy had children “freeze dance,” a game in which children dance as music is played and then stop when the music is turned off. Haley acted as DJ, playing songs like The Gummy Bear Song and Shake it Off, and children danced away as they saw their friends on screen doing the same.

“Children were so thrilled to see their friends dancing on screen and they were able to participate to an unexpected level,” Haley said.

Even the Pledge of Allegiance has been made a part of the remote learning program at Silverline. Montessori School.

Students in school and at home each get a turn at being the designated “flag holder” as they hold up their homemade flags on screen as the rest of the children say the pledge in unison.

In addition to making children feel connected, Haley says these group activities help sharpen children’s active listening skills.

“The teachers are constantly looking for more ways to make the experience of remote learning more interactive,” Haley said.

As children at Endeavor Schools are staying connected, their parents have shown great appreciation for our teachers’ efforts.

“Though we are dealing with some very crazy times, I am so very blessed to have you all in my family’s life,” one parent recently wrote to the Carpe Diem staff in Southlake, Texas. “We hope our son is able to continue with Carpe Diem until he is too old to be there.”

At Endeavor Schools, we are doing all we can to make sure children receive a joyful education, whether they’re at home or in the classroom.

Endeavor Schools Stay Open to Serve Communities and Essential Workers

A student at Step by Step Montessori School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota reads a book.

Many of our schools are staying open to provide childcare and education to families in their communities, including children of essential workers.

By adhering to strict company sanitation protocols, health and safety best practices, and following the CDC guidelines for schools, we are providing a safe and much-needed service to families across the country.

“I think it’s a great thing that we are able to stay open for those families,” said Amy Hill, the School Leader at Step by Step Montessori School in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota. “Parents know that we are here for their families and they’ve just been so appreciative and glad for that.”

In Minnesota, just like in many other states, many schools have been shut down and people are urged to stay at home. However, essential workers, including healthcare and food retail employees, must go into work and need a place to bring their children.

At Silverline Montessori School in Pearland, Texas, about half of the children’s parents are essential workers and the school has stayed open to take care of those families.

“I just think it’s wonderful that we’re able to do this,” Silverline School Leader Teresa Conn said. “It gives me have a sense of pride. There are people who really need all day childcare to take care of what they need to do and it’s truly great that we can help them.”

Keeping Schools Safe

Endeavor Schools has been at the forefront of school safety since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Danielle Millman, our Chief Operations Officer, has been in regular contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state health agencies, to ensure each of our schools are following all state and federal guidelines.

“She has made sure we are provided all the services and information we need to protect our children and remain open,” Conn said.

This includes an array of procedures, including having school facilities thoroughly and professionally cleaned and sanitized each day, using electrostatic disinfecting, performing health screens and temperature checks  of each staff and student before they enter the building, and not allowing parents or any visitors inside, to name just a few.

Despite the extra measures, parents have been happy to know that their child’s safety is a priority at Endeavor Schools.

“Families are super appreciative of all the precautions we are taking,” said Chloe Murillos, the co-School Leader at Carpe Diem Preschool in Richardson, Texas. “And they’ve never once wavered in their trust of us. Even though they can’t come inside the building to see their child, they always know their child is being well taken care of.” 

Giving Children and Families a Sense of Community

Although many children are learning at home instead of the classroom, our schools are committed to maintaining children’s sense of community by keeping them in contact with their classmates.

In addition to keeping in regular contact with families about lesson plans and learning at home activities, our schools look for other ways to help children and families feel a sense of togetherness.

At Step By Step in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, children learning at home sent their teachers photos of themselves to be put on the classroom wall so children going to school can see them every day.

“We’re making sure to keep the children connected,” Hill said.

Our families have also taken it upon themselves to stay connected.

At Carpe Diem Preschool in Richardson, Texas, parents formed a group that provides a pizza lunch for the children every Monday.

“That’s parents supporting parents,” Murillos said.

These are difficult times, but at Endeavor Schools, our teachers are working hard to make sure that children have a safe space to be and learn.

“Every morning, our kids walk into their classroom with a smile on their face and they see a teacher smiling back,” Murillos said. “We’re dedicated to do whatever it takes to provide a service to our families and our community.”

How Endeavor Schools Quickly Created Virtual Classrooms for Thousands of Children

The coronavirus has forced millions of children around the country into an at-home, virtual learning environment. Under the guidance of its education experts, Endeavor Schools is offering students a rich and varied at-home curriculum, live and recorded online classes, and regularly scheduled one-on-one sessions with teachers for students and parents.

“Our goal is to do everything we can to create an effective, at-home learning environment that continues and advances the high-quality education students were receiving before the coronavirus school closures,” said Dr. Amy Brereton, the Vice President of Academics at Endeavor Schools.

Teachers across the Endeavor School network, which includes 53 schools in 12 states, are creating videos and hosting livestreams for student lessons. They create weekly lesson plans and follow-up with students and teachers throughout the week for personal instruction, work review, or just to answer questions students or teachers have.

In addition, teachers are also coordinating social time on Zoom so children can talk with their classmates, have a snack or eat lunch with each other. This offers children social time they might not get otherwise due to social distancing.

Unlike education at high school level and above, early childhood education isn’t commonly taught online. However, Endeavor Schools’ teachers and academic leaders have led a company-wide effort to create virtual classrooms that are effective and engaging for young children.

This effort includes the rapid creation of high-quality lesson plans, videos, and technical support for teachers to conduct online instruction. In addition, new schedules for lessons, weekly online parent-teacher conferences, as well as one-on-one instruction for students have all been created on short notice to ensure children do not miss out on their education.

One reason Endeavor Schools has been able to make the transition so quickly and effectively is because its teachers know their students well and understand what would be needed to transition to an at-home learning situation.

“It is truly remarkable that none of our teachers were trained to teach remotely, but when you love children, know them well, and understand their developmental needs, you can create something really beautiful that supports children in just the way they need,” said Lee Lanou, the Director of Montessori Education at Endeavor Schools.

Maintaining a Montessori Experience in a Virtual Classroom

Teachers at Foothills Montessori School in Henderson, Nevada greet children during an online class.

Montessori instruction normally relies on a hands-on, collaborative educational environment with limited screen time, which is difficult to maintain under the coronavirus circumstances. However, Endeavor Schools’ Montessori teachers have adjusted.

“We’re doing the best we can, and teachers are finding creative ways to make it fun,” said Karen Kolb and Kim Gallagher, the school leaders at Foothills Montessori School, where they serve 3 year olds through 8th graders in Henderson, Nevada.

One way to do that is by combining hands-on instruction with a virtual classroom.

Before schools closed around the country, Foothills Montessori School’s middle school class was supposed to dissect cow eyeballs to learn about anatomy and the nervous system. But instead of ditching the dissection, one Foothills Montessori School teacher sent the eyeballs to each student and conducted the dissection class online in real time. Students followed along and dissected at home.

Although a virtual classroom might normally go against Montessori ideals, the current situation might accommodate an important Montessori ideal, which is teaching children independence. Whether it’s a 3-year-old preparing a small meal for themselves or a 7th grader sticking to a strict study schedule without having to be reminded to do so, children are taking more responsibility for their education and, as a result, becoming more independent.

“Some parents have told me, ‘Oh my gosh. I can actually see my child becoming more independent by the day,’” Kolb said.

Supporting Parents and Educating Children

A teacher at Foothills Montessori talks to her students via video conferencing.

Many parents are experiencing additional stress in their lives due to the extra burdens caused by the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why Endeavor Schools is working to help alleviate some of that stress by providing a full-time education for children with a support network available for parents who have any questions about helping their child learn at home.

Teachers at Foothills Montessori School, and other schools within the Endeavor School family, make sure to maintain lines of communication with parents by scheduling conferences via Zoom, Facetime, or just over the phone. Kolb says one of the keys here is to be proactive and reach out to parents whenever possible to ensure that they know support is available and their children’s teachers are still there to help.

“We’re making sure we can make their life easier,” Kolb said.

Lee Lanou, the Director of Montessori Education at Endeavor Schools, points out that teachers are also doing what they can to prevent parents from feeling overwhelmed because that can add stress to children’s lives, too.

“This is a time of huge stresses for parents and children pick up on that,” Lanou said. “The last thing that we want to do is to add more stress on them during this time. We offer them a loose schedule that mimics what the child’s day might be like at school and offer them activities they can do within the course of a week. We encourage free play time and independent exploration for learning, as well.”

“Lots of self-care is important,” Kolb added. “Putting things and tasks on the list like taking a walk, getting outdoors, taking brain breaks. Both adults and children need them.”

“I think it’s important to remember that this is a health crisis, not an educational crisis,” Lanou said. “All of us – children, parents, and teachers – have been taken out of our elements. How children feel during this time is what will stick with them. We need to keep that in mind.”