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All In blog by MCPS Superintendent Dr. Jack R. Smith

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All In: Meeting the Needs of Special Education Students in a Remote Learning Environment

Thank you Jean Carlson for your message of resilience, perseverance and hope. Your email brought a smile to my face as I imagined the conversation you had with your students. Thanks so much for allowing me to share it, and thank you for all you do for students.

From Jean Carlson’s email:

“As we all are, I am currently endeavouring to strike a balance between supporting the emotional well-being of my students and encouraging these young scholars to remain engaged in their schoolwork to the best of their ability. Last week, as I was explaining the students' assignment for independent work and reminding them it is important for them to turn their work in, one student called out, "But now school is closed until the end of the year."

This led to a class discussion about how the buildings are closed, but we are still learning and growing and getting ready for (in our case) fifth grade. In short, school is still on! At the end, the boy reiterated, albeit in a much softer voice, "but they said school is closed."

It led me to check the exact wording of the message on the front page of the MCPS website. "... all Maryland schools are to remain closed for the rest of the school year."

To some this is a clear message; to others perhaps "just semantics;" to others still, a loophole; but this statement does say that "school is closed," like, say, a snow day.

All this brings me to my point, that is to ask: Would you consider changing slightly the communication from "school is closed," to (something like) "School buildings are closed, but SCHOOL IS STILL ON!!?”

My initial thought was more specific wording results in more clear messaging. However, as I reflected further on my student's statement, I realized there is to be even more gained with this rephrasing. It is an opportunity to communicate a reason to celebrate! It is a message of perseverance. Despite the fact that school buildings are closed, school is still on. We are still learning, even though we can't get on the bus with our friends, run around on the playground and walk the halls of school with our classmates. We are still learning and moving forward! We will not let coronavirus stop our education!!!”

Jean Carlson
4th Grade Teacher

And, we’ve changed the website message!

School is still on and an incredibly vivid example of that is found in the discussion I had with five teachers in our special education program. These five were so thoughtful and student-centered as they shared insights, thoughts and feelings about their work; the abrupt changes in how they are working and the innovative efforts they are making to meet the needs of students. They illustrated perfectly the critical elements of science, art and heart needed in our work with students every day and now, more than ever.

Thank you Britanny Miller, Carrie Carlson, Jerry Turner, Kristin Secan and Susan Russell—the five of you, along with Jean Carlson—demonstrate that school is still on and that you bring infinite amounts of science, art and heart to the job.


Montgomery County Public Schools

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Montgomery County Public Schools
850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, MD, 20850
Call: 240-740-3000 | Spanish Hotline: 240-740-2845