A Bird’s-Eye View from your Director of Admissions

October 29, 2020

 

With safety guidelines in place for our students and faculty during this pandemic, Odyssey continues to focus on our four essentials:  specialized instruction, self-advocacy, character education, and the strengths and passions of our students. 

We are overjoyed to have our children back in the building!  Our teachers are delivering specialized instruction, individualized to the learning needs of each student and grounded in evidence-based practices.  Robust, professional development has been ongoing, training our teachers in health and wellness, mindfulness, technology, curriculum development, and teaching strategies.

As always, daily tutoring, math and language classes are taking place, teaching foundational skills which give our students reliable strategies for language and math problem solving.  Additionally, science, social studies, and all the special classes meet throughout the week, taught by content specialists focusing on intellectual stimulation and exposure to content with an emphasis on fundamental skill development.  Hands-on, multisensory lessons make learning fun and joyful, exposing students to rich content and allowing them to take away essential skills, including those helping with organization, executive function, and self-advocacy.

Despite masks and six feet distancing, close and personal relationships have been built between teachers and students as they have interacted this fall.  These personal relationships facilitate Odyssey’s safety of spirit and remind each student that they are known and valued as individuals.  We’re all used to wearing our lanyards with our photos, which both help identify us with our masks on and enable us to use the restrooms one person at a time.

Our daily schedule has been adjusted, lengthening most classes to one hour and enabling us to follow the same schedule whether in school or in distance learning. This slight change also accommodates the students who need to distance learn at home, while the rest of the students are in the building.  A primary difference from last year is the scheduling of content classes mostly in the morning and special classes usually after lunch.  In order to facilitate a smooth after school dismissal, Lower School students are now dismissed at 2:45pm and Middle School students end their day at 3:15pm.  This has helped pickup to flow smoothly.

As a community, we have all practiced and fully adjusted to one-way hallways and our new travel patterns.  It’s hard to believe, but wearing a mask has become second nature and an understood safety precaution that shows respect for others.  Students are comfortable asking their teachers for a “mask break” when they can sit six feet apart outdoors and momentarily remove their masks.  Washing hands, using hand sanitizer, and wiping desks have become a part of our day and an essential way to keep our environment clean.

We now appreciate many things that before the pandemic we took for granted.  Certainly after being at home in distance learning, there is nothing better than being back together in our building!  Also, teachers and students are making use of our beautiful 42 acres and conducting class outside much more than ever before.  Lunch outside has been a treat every day!

Our lines of communication continue to be wide open. Parents are taking the opportunity to speak to their children’s teachers, division heads, as well as the head of school when they have a worry or question. We continue to value parent input and the willingness to stay in close touch with us.  Tutoring conferences give parents so much important information on their child in reading, writing, listening and speaking and what goals have been set for the upcoming year.

In June, we will graduate 28 Windjammers and transition meetings between parents and our head of school and middle school head are well underway.  In these meetings, student strengths and areas of need are discussed and options for high school application are reviewed.  Support in this transition process will be offered every step of the way to ensure that our Windjammers progress to their next school with ease and confidence.

The focus on our Pillars and the development of self-advocacy skills are prominent, woven throughout the day and emphasized in Monday morning Zoom assemblies and fun activities like the recess freeze dance party and school-wide scary story contest for Halloween. 

Although there are definitely things we miss, Odyssey’s joyful and happy atmosphere surrounds us daily, whether in the building or through distance learning.  We continue to celebrate in many ways, including a colorful dress down day on Halloween with yummy candy for all!  With kindness, honesty, respect, and hard work, our students are persevering and learning during the fall of 2020.