HeadSpaceBlog3
Rebecca Geary

My greatest joy as an educator is engaging with students, listening to their creative ideas, witnessing their “ah-ha!” moments, and jumping into the excitement that our collaborative and student-driven environment at Green Acres fosters. Ever since my pre-Green Acres days as a volunteer early childhood educator—and my time as a middle school teacher and mentor to high school students—I have always been inspired to do better, to open my eyes and heart, and to learn from the spark and energy of young people. This sentiment especially resonated me last Thursday, when I had the opportunity to engage with Middle School students as they reflected on the shocking events that unfolded at the Capitol Building the day before.

Through this uncertainty and turmoil, I share the sadness, frustration, and sense of loss our families have been experiencing with each day and hour students are not on campus. I also feel responsibility for the health, safety, and emotional well-being of our students and staff through this all. I sense the fear and hurt of those families whose students struggle emotionally with the distance and lack of human contact. Equally pressing is my concern and worry for those young people and their families whose compromised health and risk of exposure limit their options as we work to bring folks back onto campus. I wish there could be a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

Despite these challenges, in the short time since we have returned from winter break, Green Acres students have fully immersed themselves in at-home learning with a spirit and positivity that lifts us up. Special kudos go out to our passionate and talented staff, who have expertly re-established a rhythm and flow to maintain students’ interest and participation. While our teachers are doing excellent work to meet or exceed the demands of delivering quality, rigorous, and academically challenging work for students learning at home, we all yearn for the day  when we may return to the type of in-person instruction that promotes sharing classroom materials and working and side-by-side (and that relieves staff from their role as mask and social distancing referees!).

It is sometimes difficult to peer into the future and imagine what lessons will have staying power from our pandemic experience. For now, I’m most interested in working toward welcoming all students back, in providing equitable experience and access for our friends who must remain at home pending a vaccine, and in learning, growing, and improving from each of these unique situations we encounter. My hope is that we retain our humor, compassion, and understanding for each others’ varying needs, and that we continue to work together to forge the best path forward, wherever that may lead us.

Read More about Post #10: January 11, 2021
Sara Huneke

Wishing you peace, quality time with family and friends (albeit virtually in most cases), and the opportunity to appreciate all nature has to offer by reconnecting with new and forgotten special spaces or places. May we find renewed energy as we explore our creativity and curiosity as adults through the eyes of our youth, as our children lead us to imagine what may be. 

I hope you are inspired and buoyed by the hope that the new year brings, as we learn meaningful and sometimes hard lessons from the year’s mantle we now cast aside.

Enjoy this video—brought to life by the voices of our community members—that serves as a reminder of the many ways in which Green Acres brings meaning to our lives.

Here’s to a brave, healthy, joyful new year!

In peace,

 
RebeccaSignature

Rebecca Geary (she/they)
Head of School
rebeccag@greenacres.org

Read More about Post #9: December 18, 2020
Rebecca Geary

In a COVID-19 world where we crave more than ever a sense of progress and connection, I find myself relishing in every little win and every human interaction, no matter how small. I’ve learned that this is especially true in my leadership role at Green Acres, as I am propelled by my desire to forge connections with and among this wonderful community—and to forge us ahead.  

So when the long-awaited tents finally arrived last week, we rejoiced as a staff. And when I had a moment to engage in casual hallway conversations (masked and socially distanced, of course) with staff who are working from campus, I beamed under my mask. My ongoing conversations with families about how their children are doing at Green Acres remain a pleasure and a privilege. These connections make the big work meaningful and add context at a time when making sense of what we face is at times elusive. 

My hope is that spirit week will help bring us together as only community activities like crazy hair day can do. I certainly look forward to some of my firsts, like the book festival, tonight’s speaker, Minh Lê, and the upcoming winter concert.  

December brings several certainties: chilly weather, bare trees, and budget discussions. During this season, we weigh post-COVID campus needs, explore ways to strengthen our financial position, and envision what the enrollment picture will be next fall. While having families come back year after year is our best way of maintaining healthy enrollment, recruitment also plays a vital role. I am pleased to report that this season’s virtual admission events have been well received. Our parent and student ambassadors are taking center stage in sharing their authentic experiences while responding to questions from prospective community members. With their honest, heartfelt stories and examples of why they value a Green Acres education, our parents are our best marketers for Green Acres. We continue to invest in ways to keep our current families feeling engaged and satisfied, as well as in ways to broaden our reach and better target our marketing efforts. Your feedback and ideas are always most welcome. 

Speaking of feedback, next week we’ll be sending a survey your way. We’re looking to learn more about your child(ren)’s experience so far this year, hear your thoughts about returning to campus in the new year, and seek your recommendations about ways in which we can better serve the needs of your family. I recognize that there are many perspectives and that not all are shared or expressed broadly. With that in mind, please participate in our survey so that your views may be considered as we work on plans for re-entry after winter break.  

Additionally, I have been and will be calling families individually to hear how you are doing. I would welcome a call if I haven’t spoken with you by this Friday. 

The next Town Hall, the day before our board meeting, is Wednesday, December 16 from 7-8 PM. Most of our Town Halls have been at lunch time so that folks can take a break and chat over lunch, yet we recognize that for some families, evening options is preferable. We most likely will not have a decision about re-entry by then, it is an opportunity to check in and see what is on folks’ minds.  

The next three weeks will demand a lot from us as we weigh where we are (as a County and school) and where we anticipate we are headed. Our work ahead is to continue to improve upon the dual-platform experience, since we know that there will be students who must remain learning from home until there is a vaccine available. We also must continue to think outside of the box and the classroom to consider winter weather and the need for ample time outdoors, so that students may be on campus for longer periods of time. We have divided into three staff groups to assess our infrastructure, the program/schedule, and student/staff health and safety topics. As always, we benefit from the wisdom of specialists in our parent community and network. 

As I speak with heads of schools at AISGW and AIMS-DC, we are all undergoing similar processes to arrive at decisions that best suit our resources and community needs. My hope is that the greater communities in which we live will do the right thing to minimize the spread and not take risks that eventually reach those of us who are careful and follow the protocols to keep our families safe.  

Wishing you a healthy, peaceful week full of Green Acres spirit! 

In peace, 

Rebecca Spirit Week Crazy Hair Day

 

 

 

 
RebeccaSignature

Rebecca Geary (she/they)
Head of School
rebeccag@greenacres.org

Read More about Post #8: December 7, 2020
Rebecca Geary

Years ago, I built an arbor from fallen cedar that I gathered following an ice storm. The aromatic branches, combined with copper pipe and wire, hold up the wisteria and trumpet vines. Over time, they have grown and entwined themselves together. In conjuring up this image, I can’t help but draw parallels to Green Acres—to our own deep roots, to our interconnectedness, to how we support and hold one another. We are both branch and flower. 

arbor

Students in grades 3–8 were blooming with excitement last week as many of them returned, if only briefly, to campus for in-person trial days. Unfortunately, a jump in COVID numbers caused us to prudently return to at-home learning as of last Friday. Peter Klam has been updating our COVID-19 Resources page with additional information of interest. While we have not yet decided whether we will return to campus before winter break, we will make on-campus PCR testing available on December 1 for staff, students, and their immediate family. See details in today’s GreenLine and on our website. 

The work ahead is to collaborate with staff to identify what additional supports are needed to envision a full-day experience for students. When we return, we plan on working as efficiently as possible towards a full-day teaching and learning model. We have ordered outdoor tents and are working on the best options for heating, as the weather will invariably turn colder.

There is much for which to be thankful and reflect: 

  • The fact that our COVID testing both times provided all negative results (if that were not the case we would have advised, yet understand people want to hear the news).  

  • Our students are so resilient, creative, and expressive, as are our teachers and staff.  

  • Our community supports each other through the tough times, the celebrations and appreciations. I especially value seeing colleagues for quick chats around campus or on Teams, speaking with parents on Town Hall calls, spending time with your children and seeing their wit and intellect in action during classes, and hearing the Green Acres stories that give context to what used to be, what is, and what might be. 

Whatever the version of your family tradition this week may bring, I wish you health, a sense of connection, and joy spending time in (virtually, most likely) with the people who matter most in your lives.  

In peace, 

 
RebeccaSignature

Rebecca Geary (she/they)
Head of School
rebeccag@greenacres.org

Read More about Post #7: November 23, 2020
Rebecca Geary

This is a perfect time of year: warm, fragrant days that harken to the summer not far behind us, and a winter not yet on the horizon. On campus, the mums are starting to bloom, and we are harvesting our Green Acres–grown pumpkins and watermelons. It is almost easy to forget the trying times we face amid the joyful voices of Pre-K racing trikes outside, the Kindergarteners reuniting for the first time today for on-campus instruction, and our animated 6th graders playing at the Woods playground for their meet-up.  

We are engaged in next steps of bringing more students on campus. Having reviewed several proposals and ideas for our next re-entry phases, I am prepared to announce those re-entry dates for the remaining Green Acres students’ return to campus with the Green Acres community on Thursday evening, October 8, after sharing them with staff and the board. At this point, the more notice folks have to prepare, the better. I will host monthly Town Halls for the Middle School and for the Lower School/Early Childhood Unit, respectively, to share updates, field questions, and hear your thoughts on how things are going to-date. We will start with a Pre-K to Grade 4 meeting on Thursday, October 8 from 8–8:45 PM and Grade 5–8 meeting on Friday, October 9 from 9–9:45 AM.  

Your perspectives are valued and will be taken into consideration. Please continue to stay engaged as we work through the constant changes and shifts this pandemic presents. Your support as a community bolsters us through the hard work we continue to tackle. 

I expressed to staff that, for me, this has been a time of reflecting on our recent past and on the year ahead. One thing I sense is the uncertainty that people feel on several fronts. With that in mind, I want to share the data and factors we are using to inform our re-entry process: 

  • Infection rates and transmission rates remain steady in Montgomery County (as of 10/5):
    New Confirmed Cases:  
    99 (3-day avg); declining numbers for 7/14 days 
    Most other data is declining for 14/14 days  
    Source: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/data/#dashboard
     
  • Test positivity (as of 10/5):  
    3.4% (3-day avg); declining numbers for 13/14 days 
    Source: https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/covid19/data/#dashboard
     
  • Performance results from current students on campus:
    Having had Pre-K on campus for four weeks, we have streamlined our processes and followed health protocols. 
     
  • Ability to social distance and offer space for student activities 
    We have sectioned our many spacious playgrounds to allow equitable use of spaces as more grades come onto campus. 
     
  • Independent school networks and connections 
    We are observing and learning from independent schools in the area and nationally that have successfully brought many of their students on campus in a variety of ways. 
     
  • Analysis of decisions and reasonable accommodations 
    PPE is available to staff members, and the nurse is instructing them in its proper wear and use. 

    We meet as grade-level teams for those grades that are coming on campus to review all needs/issues and supports to address. We hire help (Pre-K assistants and Kindergarten shared assistant) and set up outdoor spaces (chairs, benches, tables) for use. 
     
  • To test or not to test, and how often 
    Whether we require a negative test result for staff and students on re-entry, or at regular intervals, is being weighed for the next phases from 1st grade up. 

By now, most families have signed and returned their Green Acres Community Agreement. Signing is the first step, but the most important is that we all practice behaviors that keep us all safe. I have been talking to heads of schools who shared that they see students on social media without masks and being unsafe. The consequence for older students is that schools restrict them from in-person instruction. I personally do not want to be a social media detective, but I know that your friends and students’ classmates are watching to see that you uphold the agreement you signed. Your risk puts others at risk, so let us care for each other and wear masks, clean and sanitize, social distance, and stay in cohorts/family groups to ensure best outcomes all around. Someone’s life may depend on it. 

In peace, 

 
RebeccaSignature

Rebecca Geary (she/they)
Head of School
rebeccag@greenacres.org

Read More about Post #6: October 5, 2020