The Suffield Public Schools may look a little different in the fall but whether students are at home or in the school building, SPS is offering new and exciting opportunities for students to learn. First, the upgrade of the Google platform to Google Enterprise allows teachers and students to collaborate, communicate, and learn with each other while apart or together. In addition, teachers have been honing the curriculum to invite students to engage with history and literature lessons from many perspectives including more authors and views from black, indigenous and people of color. Our classes will focus more on problem solving, project-based learning, and critical-thinking lessons throughout the curriculum. We have added new learning opportunities at Spaulding and McAlister: a Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) class. At Suffield High School we have added three new courses: Anatomy and Physiology, Computer Aided Drafting and Design, and a new culinary class called Farm to Whisk which allows students to learn about healthy habits of food from farm to table.
The sudden shift to remote learning last year allowed us the opportunity to explore new online materials to support instruction. DreamBox Math was a program that we found to be highly effective in supporting students’ mathematical reasoning and problem solving. Additionally, the program provides teachers with progress monitoring tools, with the ability to create individualized lessons and the students with the ability to accelerate at their own pace. Suffield Public Schools is fortunate to have the support of the Suffield Foundation for Excellent Schools, which has funded DreamBox for the upcoming year so that we may continue to use this program. Even summer learning was made possible with access to DreamBox Math, giving students grades K-8 access to anytime and anywhere learning.
This year our Google platform has transitioned to Google Enterprise. This new version of the Google platform will help to streamline our remote learning work and eliminate extraneous apps on student and teacher ChromeBooks. This will not only give us access to new functions on Google but will also have the added bonus of lightening the load that our ChromeBooks have to do. Google Enterprise has some exciting new features to make digital learning closer to being in the classroom. This includes a digital white board that can be used in Google Meets. Google Meets participants will be able to see one another in a class gallery view and can also use a virtual background that can be blurred or replaced. Students will also be able to raise their hands to participate directly in the lesson and teachers will be able to track attendance easily on Google Meets. Teachers will also be able to conduct polls in Google Meets to pose questions and get answers from all students to gauge understanding of the lesson and ensure engagement from learners, regardless of their learning environment. And finally, teachers will be able to assign students to breakout rooms where they can facilitate small group work, just like in the classroom. We are excited to see our students in our new Google Meets.
This year Suffield Public Schools is continuing our partnership with Columbia Teachers College. Staff Developers with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Program will be working with teachers K-8 to hone teachers’ skills instructing with the reading and writing workshop approach. This is an expansion of the ongoing professional learning work with McAlister teachers this past year. Teachers will engage in lesson studies and learn ways to innovate in the classroom with cutting-edge, research-based instructional strategies.
While our school schedule, protocols, and routines may look different this year, what hasn’t changed is the determination, dedication, and enthusiasm of our teachers and students. Suffield Public Schools has risen to the challenge of ensuring that students receive an exemplary education. Teachers have worked very hard to deliver a more equitable curriculum with new instructional tools through new mediums in order to engage students in new learning experiences all while establishing a safe learning environment. Good teaching, regardless of whether we are at home or in the school building, is all about teacher clarity, a focus on learning strategies, student talk, and teacher feedback. Every year, SPS strives to meet the challenges of an ever-evolving world through innovation, perseverance, and an unyielding commitment to students.