Looping: Needed Now More than Ever

No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship

James P. Connor, Comer School Development Center

Looping at The Willows has always been an integral part of the school’s philosophy. From 1st to 2nd grade and from 3rd to 4th grade, Willows’ students have the same teachers and classmates for back-to-back years. Looping in schools has been shown to have a positive impact on both students and teachers. The Willows has always understood and embraced the positive benefits of looping, but now with the pandemic, for the next school year, looping is going to be more significant than ever before.

Why looping?

Relationships with students

When teachers spend two years with the same students, there is a level of trust that is formed. These deep bonds allow students to be more open to taking risks in the classroom, which in return, will foster more authentic learning experiences. Teachers will also have a better understanding of their students’ learning styles from being with them for two years and will be able to adapt their approach to fit their students’ needs. These formative years are crucial for students to build a strong bond with their teacher.

Relationships with parents and families

We all know the importance of the home/school connection. It takes a partnership. Not only is trust extremely important between students and teachers, but trust between parents and teachers is equally as important. Having two years together helps parents and teachers build on that trust. Once that foundation is established, parents will feel more comfortable asking questions and taking advice from teachers. Parents will know the style of teaching and how the classroom is running, and generally, have a better sense what to expect during the year.

Students adapt less to change

The beginning of any school year is a transitional time. It sometimes takes months just to get in a routine. A great deal of this time is spent getting to know the students and students adjusting to classroom expectations such as rules, schedules, and acceptable behavior. This transitional time, while extremely important, can take away from the academic learning that takes place in the classroom, especially if teachers have to do it yearly.

We all know students like routine and structure. They like to know what’s coming next. Looping provides the stability and consistency at school that all students crave and need. By integrating looping into schools, children spend less time adjusting to classroom expectations and rules, and they won’t have to adapt every year to a new teacher and classroom. This will allow students to have more time to focus on the academics and social emotional facets of school.

I’m going to leave you with this analogy.

The notion of finding a new doctor or dentist every year sounds absurd. We, as well as our children, want to develop a bond with our doctors in order to feel comfortable with them, and so do our doctors with us. This bond that’s built on trust and experiences are developed over time and provides doctors with a better understanding of our growth and development. So why wouldn’t this concept of looping not be utilized in our schools?

For more information about distance learning at The Willows. Please visit our Distance Learning hub at www.thewillows.org/distancelearning.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Being a Teen in Quarantine

“It’s all vegetables and no dessert”

Lisa Damour

Throughout social media, you may have seen an act of social media solidarity for high school students as Facebook users shared their old senior photos. Thousands of individuals came together to support and empathize the significant loss these teenagers were enduring. To some, they may not see or understand the significant loss. To them, it’s just high school. To be honest, I initially didn’t understand the magnitude of this loss either. I’ve been far removed from those years for quite some time so, to me, I forgot the significance of what my teenage years meant to me. After listening to Lisa Damour’s talk on Teen Lockdown, I now remember the importance of my teen years and can understand why so many teens are struggling.

Lisa Damour, clinical psychologist and writer, who has written numerous academic papers, chapters, and two New York Times best-selling books, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood and Under Pressure: Confronting the Epidemic of Stress and Anxiety in Girls, put it really well when she said, “It’s all vegetables and no dessert.” The thing that’s missing is the fun and social aspects of school. Seeing friends in the hall, cracking jokes, attending sporting events, and gossiping about the latest crush is no longer a factor in play. These playful parts of school that are so meaningful to students are hard to replicate in a virtual learning environment and it’s really affecting our teenagers.

With distance learning being the only current option, we have now created a full-on academic environment without the social interaction that teens crave and need. That’s why so many of them are having a hard time at school. Now, add in being stuck at home with your family for the majority of the day. If there’s one thing teenagers want from their parents, it’s autonomy. How many times have you heard, “just leave me alone!”? This common phrase gets thrown around a household with a teenager quite frequently and often leads to tension within the household. More so now than ever, with the stay-at-home mandate, teens need space. Teens were not built to be at home all day with their parents. They were meant to be at school, socializing with their peers. This time is an extraordinary challenge for them.

So how do we help our teens?

  • A lot of empathy is in order.
  • We know that this quarter in school is typically not a high motivational quarter anyway. Children are typically drained and are looking forward to summer vacation. On top of that, there’s not the time pressure of getting assignments done.
  • We know that teens will feel better if they feel productive during the day. Don’t throw all the rules and expectations out the window. Children feel better when they accomplish tasks and get things done.
  • We also know that teenagers dislike being told what to do. Lisa Damour goes into the two different sides that teenagers have. One side is they want to be impulsive and lazy. The other side is that they are thoughtful, mature, and invested. When trying to motivate your child to do something, try to recruit the more mature side into problem solving together instead of throwing solutions at them.
  • Let your teenager know that this is a big loss, but also offer them perspective. It won’t derail their life and it’s going to be a shared experience for all of you to look back at later in life.

Remember that your teenager has experienced a huge loss and they don’t have the perspective that adults have. The have experienced the loss of graduation, prom/dance, and friends. For many of them, this may be the first major setback and disappointment for them. Teenagers typically get through school by looking forward to things, whether that be seeing a crush in the hallway or attending prom. Now, they don’t have any of that.

So parents, show empathy and work with your teenager and hopefully you can all get through this difficult time without hearing “leave me alone!”

This coming December, we will be having Lisa Damour speak to The Willows community and our extended Los Angeles community as part of our Speaker Series, which will be open and free to the public.

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/

How to Stay Connected During Social Distancing

Social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection!

In the current situation, it’s so easy to feel disconnected and isolated from the outside world. More than ever before, it’s extremely important we find ways to connect with one another. But how do we stay connected while complying with the stay-at-home mandate?

We’ll tell you!

Below we have compiled a list of ideas you can try at home to stay connected while practicing social distancing.

Send a personal touch

At least once a week, send a personal email, text, phone call to someone you care about. This goes a long way in letting people know you care about them.

Make a video call

Make sure to find ways to visually connect with those you love. Zoom, Facetime, Google Meet are all great free options. You can be creative and host a board game night (Jackbox.Tv), do a dance party, or workout together. Not only do we need to connect with our loved ones but make sure to have your children connect with theirs as well.

Give a shout out to your kids and/or significant other

Shout out to your kids if they are working extremely hard and putting in effective effort. Distance learning is not going to be smooth sailing for them. Make sure to highlight their wins. It also goes a long way to shout out to your significant other. This is the time to appreciate one another for helping out.

Spend some quality family time

Every day, brainstorm as a family, some projects or activities you can all do together. Whether it’s baking cookies, watching a movie, working out together or building a fort. This will allow your family to just have fun in the moment and not worry about everything else that is going on.

Embrace social media

Spend some time on social media. This is a good way to connect and see what others are doing. It’s okay to spend a little bit more time on social media. You can even start a Tik Tok account and do some fun dances as a family! Just make sure you set a time limit for yourself.

Volunteer with an organization

Just because you have to stay at home doesn’t mean we can’t volunteer! Many nursing homes are looking for pen pals. You can even get your children involved. Have them draw and make cards and teach them how to mail a card!

You can become a crisis counselor with Crisis Text Line, a 24/7 text-based hotline for those in crisis.

You can assist the Red Cross’s social engagement team by becoming a digital volunteer. You will monitor conversations on social media to find people who might need help, share important updates and resources and offer compassionate responses.

Become a Smithsonian “volunteer” to help transcribe and make historical documents and biodiversity data accessible to everyone.

The United Nations Volunteers program currently has more than a hundred online volunteer opportunities including teaching, translating and art design.

Join an online fitness community

It’s so important that we exercise our bodies. There are many free and paid fitness communities in which to partake. Many local fitness studios are also taking their workouts online live and prerecorded.

Host a watch party

Netflix Party is a chrome extension that allows you to watch movies with other users and chat in real-time. There are plenty of Atlanta-filmed options to choose form.

Go on virtual tours!

Check out our past blog on links to visit national parks and museusm from all around the world!

Join an online book club

Connect with other adults through an online book club. Below are a few organizations that facilitate online book clubs You can also coordinate one between your group of friends.

Now Read This is a monthly book club from PBS News Hour and The New York Times Book Review.

Monthly Book Club

Buzzfeed Book Club reads one book a month and hosts discussions.

The Andrew Luck Book Club, created by the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback

The next time you find yourself craving social interaction, feel free to try some of these activities on this list!

For more information, please check out our Distance Learning Hub: https://distancelearning.thewillows.org/