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Roxanna's Weekly Message

May 7, 2021

Excellence in Teaching Doesn't Happen by Accident

I may be biased, but I think MRH really does have the best teachers. So much passion, so much dedication, so much care for students. I am humbled each day as I watch their interactions with students. This week, I had first-graders show me their data collection and graphing work. One student asked me if I would complete a survey he created. He got out his clipboard and handled the interview like a professional. That doesn’t happen by accident.

A fourth-grade student spent time explaining the business she hoped to start and shared her business model. She was going to launch a store with two distinct brands: a clothing store on one side and a toy store where kids make their own “slime” on the other. The student explained that moms need to have time to themselves while shopping. So, in her store, kids could be supervised and have fun while mom gets a break. She had a business plan and a hiring plan, and had thought through what an ideal employee would look like. That doesn’t happen by accident.

I watched the middle school team arrive back at school muddy and exhausted after a three day expedition on the Mississippi River. Students had canoed the “Mighty Miss” while taking water samples, learning history of the region, writing in journals and exploring sustainability issues. That doesn’t happen by accident.

I also heard about high school students who have created their own documentary about the pandemic. It is a look at how COVID has influenced students at our local level. They have worked with experts and will be able to screen their documentary in the coming week. That doesn’t happen by accident.

As the official “Teacher Appreciation Week” draws to a close, I want to acknowledge our wonderful team of educators. Deep learning does not happen by chance. It happens through hard work, love of children and a deep understanding of students’ need to know and do. By knowing their students well, teachers are able to take student interest and academic goals and create incredible experiences for kids. Please join me in celebrating our teachers for a job well done in an incredibly challenging year. 

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April 19, 2021

Shared sense of purpose

This would not have been possible without the support of you, the families who entrust us with the wellbeing of your children. I know your lives were upended. You adjusted work hours to accommodate at-home instruction. You juggled conflicting schedules in households with multiple learners. You shouldered a greater load during homework periods. This level of dedication makes me increasingly proud of our community and strengthens my resolve.

While the revised CDC guidance for schools allows us to implement changes that bring more students on campus, our collective work is not over. I understand the trepidation that some people feel about being vaccinated against COVID-19; it’s natural. With multiple vaccines now widely available, our focus at MRH shifts to educating the community about the “where, when and why” of getting the shot. Recently, we distributed two important video messages to our staff. One video features a retired preschool teacher explaining why she got the vaccine. The other video carries a similar message by a member of the St. Louis County Council. I’m including them here because each statement resonates powerfully. Additionally, we are committed to relaying information to the MRH community about how to register for vaccine shots, now that all Missouri residents 16 and older are eligible for them. 

Of course, testing has also been a pillar of the response to COVID-19 for the past year. The increasing number of testing resources and available labs has made it possible to host testing events throughout the state to learn more about the prevalence of COVID-19 community transmission (a key factor in MRH’s decision-making process). We fully support this effort and urge you to use this link to locate a testing site near you. Testing is free, and no pre-registration or appointment is needed.

MRH has already held  vaccine clinics for all staff members. The turnout was impressive. I feel a great sense of relief knowing that the majority of staff members are vaccinated.  In coming weeks, we will continue to share opportunities for the community to be vaccinated.  MRH is committed to doing all we can to assist the community in its vaccination efforts. Thank you for your ongoing diligence in following protocols to keep our community safe!

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April 5, 2021

A Hug and a Nudge

This week we have parent/teacher conferences across the District. When I was a child, those conferences were either the best or the worst of times. I was always a good student, so my parents heard generally positive reports on my academic progress. However, there was occasionally a “talks too much in class” or other social indiscretion also in my report. I once had a teacher tell my parents that I shouldn’t read so much! Thankfully, my father supported reading as much as I wanted as long as I was attentive in class and had completed my assignments.

It was a different time, when cooperative learning and collaboration were not as valued. I can look back on those experiences and chuckle. I recall standing straight in front of my father as he asked me “Is this the best you can do?” Today he laughs as he remembers those days saying, “I kept waiting for you to say ‘yes sir, it is my best.’ But you just kept saying ‘I can do better,’ so I kept asking.” If only I had known! This strategy is what I refer to as a hug and a nudge. My parents gave me unconditional support, but they were also warm demanders that I continue to do my very best.

Parent/teacher conferences are a wonderful way for teachers and guardians to share information about a student’s progress and to ensure that a student’s needs are met. In this most unusual year of seemingly unending stressors, it is more important than ever that we practice a hug and a nudge strategy.  Students (and families) have been through serious challenges this year; they need our support academically, socially and emotionally.  Students also need to know that despite the challenges, we believe in them. We believe that they can make progress and we believe that their best work is just ahead. 

Growth mindset in a supportive environment is what MRH staff try to deliver daily. Even if your child “talks too much in class” or “reads too much at recess,” I hope that parent/teacher conferences this week are an opportunity to share your hopes and dreams for your child. Know that no matter the current challenges, you children will continue to make progress and we are here to help. Who knows? Some day the child who was told that they didn’t follow directions might even grow up to run a school district.

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March 18, 2021

Change in the Air

Mild weather. Rainy days. Daylight Savings Time. Spring Break. The hallmarks of spring are starting to appear. Spring is a hopeful time of longer and warmer days. This year the hopefulness is tinged with reflection as we mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic. One year ago, we sent students on Spring Break with the belief that we may have to cancel school for a short period of time due to the arrival of COVID-19. Little did we realize the far-reaching impact it would have on our lives.

We know much more now than a year ago when we assumed COVID closures would last for just a few weeks. We have experienced pain, fear, stress and challenges as the MRH community has dealt with the extended closures and hybrid learning. Students, parents and educators have sacrificed and persevered to continue student education. It has not been a smooth road and bumps surely lie ahead. 

Like last year, this week saw a barrage of information coming to schools about the current COVID-19 situation:

  • All MRH staff will be able to participate in an on-site vaccine clinic on Friday, March 19th. We are thrilled that the Visiting Nurses Association is making this happen.

  • A regional vaccine clinic for educators will be held on March 23 and 24 from noon to 8:00 pm. There is still a need for clinical volunteers, i.e. nurses/doctors.  (If you would like to volunteer, contact me and I’ll share your name with the organizers.)

  • The county has changed the recommended quarantine period from 14 days to 10 days based on current conditions and recent studies. MRH will change our practice to align with this new guidance. Handbooks and information on the website are being updated.

  • A study published in conjunction with Harvard University concluded that in a school setting with other mitigation measures in place, 3 feet of distance can be an effective barrier. Prior recommendations (including current CDC guidance) suggested 6 feet. This information is promising. Additional studies in conjunction with the CDC and Missouri schools have been conducted. Results are pending.

  • Health officials urged the public to continue using extreme caution and to practice layers of protection in all venues. While warm weather, COVID-19 fatigue (“Will it ever end?”) and dropping case rates in the region tempt us to drop our guard, we must remain vigilant. Enjoy your Spring Break as a family, but please continue to follow safety guidelines.

As always, our school community is united in two main goals: to keep everyone safe and to provide a world-class educational experience. I fully understand that the intersection of those goals has created challenges and stressors for all of us. The administrative team works tirelessly to review data, monitor the physical spaces and mitigating measures against current guidelines, enact prompt and effective contact tracing, and monitor the social/emotional/academic needs of our students. Everyone at MRH is doing their best to provide conditions for a safe return to Tier 1 instruction. But we need your help to ensure that COVID-19 does not spread through our community due to large social gatherings, parties and outings. This year as we send students into Spring Break, I am hopeful. Ever the optimist, I believe there are positive changes on the horizon if we remain steady and vigilant. 

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