Reimagining Education - Student Support Outside the Classroom

Judith Guild, Head of School
As a small school that champions a personalized approach to learning for all students, we have a number of developmentally-appropriate support systems in place that empower our students to seek out and receive academic and social-emotional help and guidance from faculty, staff, and fellow students. In transitioning to a remote learning environment, it was important for us to work collaboratively to ensure that these systems and structures could be redesigned and reimagined. 

Here are a few examples:
  
Academics 
Our Middle School and Upper School curriculum are enhanced by several key academic support programshoused in our Library Learning Commons. The Middle School Learning Center is staffed throughout the day by faculty members and tutors to help students with skill development, organization, and understanding in all content areas on a drop-in basis. During the transition to remote learning, our faculty worked hard to schedule online sessions throughout the week in the now Virtual Learning Center to ensure that students had access to the same level of 1:1 and small group support as they would on campus.  
 
In our Upper School, the Virtual Writing Center is now open for business with five faculty members available throughout the week for 1:1 sessions with our students to help them with their ongoing writing assignments. Our Math Lab is staffed by a member of the Math Department and offers drop in 1:1 and group support for pre-algebra through AP Calculus. Additionally, the student leaders of our Peer Tutoring Program took it upon themselves to adjust their availability based on their remote learning schedules and devise a system in which Middle and Upper School students can email a peer tutor to arrange an appointment via Zoom, thus ensuring that this important student-to-student support system would continue to thrive.  
 
In the Lower School, faculty were assigned to Remote Learning Support Teams, consisting of grade level teachers (PK-1, 2/3, and 4/5), two specialist teachers, and a Lower School Leadership team member. In addition to weekly Lower School full faculty meetings, these teams have been highly effective in supporting teachers, students, and families in the remote environment. Depending on the grade level, students meet 2-3 times each day with their class (homeroom), and once a week live via Zoom for each creative arts special (art, music, and drama), and once a week for world language. Classroom teachers also meet 1:1 with each student, each week. Additionally, our Extended Day Director and some of our Extended Day instructors are hosting 3rd, 4th and 5th grade study halls, breakout rooms, and homework help.  

Our Director of Learning Services meets virtually with individual students receiving formal learning services in all grades, PK-12, while ensuring that her support addresses any additional challenges that may arise for students in a remote learning environment. This has included additional support with executive functioning skills like time management and organization. She has worked closely with students to help them create new routines and problem solve challenges they may have with information resourcing off campus. She continues to serve on the Student Support Teams for all three divisions, comprised of each division’s academic and social-emotional health directors, which continue to meet weekly in our virtual environment and provide a coordinated means of communicating and addressing concerns that may arise in the classroom.  

Social-Emotional Wellbeing and Community Building 
To continue to both build and maintain the close-knit sense of community and social-emotional wellbeing that exist on campus, our Middle and Upper School student leaders, faculty, and administrators have teamed up to design myriad opportunities for students to both connect and seek support. Middle and Upper Student Senate leaders schedule virtual “hang outs” and trivia games (both home-made and using Kahoot) that provide much needed social time for students, as well as collaborative projects for students to share about their lives in quarantine. Our Director of Counseling Services offers “office hours” three times a week for students to drop in and chat with her. Additionally, our Middle School Life Skills classes, facilitated by both our Director of Counseling Services and our Director of School Health Services, create a space for students to process this unprecedented and challenging time. The Director of Equity and Inclusion hosts Virtual Students of Color Affinity Group lunches in both the Middle and Upper Schools. These  weekly group meetings, designed for students who self-identify as students of color, are optional and include a mix of both structured discussion and unstructured social time. 
 
Our Lower School has continued their daily morning and closing classroom meetings, as well as their weekly full division Share assemblies through Zoom. These more frequent formal community meetings are essential to the wellbeing of our youngest students, as they provide important time for them to feel safe, situated, and significant as they adjust to the remote learning. The Director of Counseling Services and our Director of School Health Services are available to addressing any emotional needs of students. Our Lower School classroom teachers are hosting social events for students to connect, which has included open mic events, poetry slams, mystery readers, surprise guests, Zoom lunches, and in fifth grade, our Diversity Lunch Bunch each week.

Finally, our Parents Association has started the process of surveying our parent community to gather more information on the kinds of virtual events that would be most appealing during this incredibly busy time. In understanding that caring for our parent community is essential to the wellbeing of our families and students, our Directors of Health Services and Counseling Services have scheduled biweekly Parent Check-In meetings for each division of the School to provide parents with any support they may need. 

Physical Health and Wellness 
We have designed a Health & Wellness page on Canvas (our Learning Management System) so students can continue to be physically active. Already populated with yoga classes by our Director of Library Services (and resident yogi), guided mindfulness and meditation exercises, strength and conditioning workouts with our Athletic Directors, and spin classes with our Head of Middle School, we look forward to expanding this page’s offerings, as well as making much of the content accessible to our alumni community 
 
In moving to an online platform for all the opportunities that make Brimmer special, we are striving to maintain the same personalized learning approach that our students and families expect from us. Truly a team effort, it has required us to think deeply and creatively about how we can reimagine these structures in a remote learning environment. By encouraging an iterative process and growth mindset for all constituents, we continue to evaluate and solicit feedback from studentsfamilies, and faculty and adjust our programs and services as needed.   
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As an inclusive community, Brimmer welcomes students who will increase the diversity of our school. We do not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, gender, gender identity and expression, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, ancestry, or any other characteristic protected from discrimination under state or federal law, in the administration of our educational policies, admissions practices, financial aid decisions, and athletic and other school-administered programs.