ISY Elementary Blog

Collaborating, Communicating, and Connecting

Mike Simpson, Elementary School Principal

11 September 2020

At the end of our second week of the academic year, we feel that our students are getting into the swing of things online. As is the case with the first two weeks of any year, our teachers have focused on determining how each of their students are settling in socially to their class and what their academic needs are. The focus will now shift to maintaining social connections and differentiating instruction to meet each student’s social and academic needs. 

Maintaining social connections and differentiating instruction online will require us to constantly adapt our practices. 

As I have written about before in this blog, our teachers have proven that they are able to adapt their practice to any situation because they are clear as to why they need to adapt their practice. 

The why for maintaining social connections and differentiating instruction does not change in an online environment – we do it to realize the personal and academic potential of each child. And even though the how for maintaining social connections and differentiating instruction changes online, two things remain constant – the need to collaborate and to communicate.

Collaborating and communicating to meet each student’s needs

As well as deepening student understanding in all subjects, another key benefit to ISY’s interdisciplinary approach to learning is that it creates more opportunities for teachers to collaborate around student learning. 

By connecting all subjects in one interdisciplinary unit of study and ensuring that all students in a grade are exploring the same big ideas, we have all teachers working closely together to plan to meet the needs of each student. Teachers also work together with our Learning Services teachers who are able to provide teachers and students with extra support as necessary. 

How teachers differentiate instruction to support or extend students will differ depending upon the student and the need. Sometimes, teachers will be able to differentiate for a student within a whole class lesson, sometimes they might use a Zoom breakout room to meet with a smaller group of students with similar needs, sometimes they might have a one on one session with a student, or sometimes they might provide a student a specialized independent task that will help them master a skill. 

Communication between teachers is very important in planning to differentiate to meet student needs. Communication between teachers and families is also very important and given that our students are all learning online, this is probably even more important than ever. As needed, your child’s teacher might reach out to you to provide advice or support. Our teachers are also grateful to receive advice or ideas from you as to how they could support your child. 

Ultimately, it is of course a school’s responsibility to meet the social and academic needs of each of its students. However, it is the families that know their children best and, as I shared in Tuesday’s Family Forum, we will always receive any ideas from you in the spirit that they are shared with us – to help us meet your child’s social and academic needs. 

Once again, thank you for the messages of support and feedback that we have received from families over the last couple of weeks. In response to feedback around communication and connections, this afternoon you will receive your first weekly report from your child’s teacher. These weekly reports will go out every Friday and will update you on what is happening in classes. Ms. Patty is also providing online recess this week to keep up social connections between students and we will keep thinking of ways to keep us all connected as we move through the year.

Kind regards,


This Week’s Online Learning Tip: Asking Big Questions!

This week’s tip is not about technology or online learning environments or anything like that. It is more of a fun activity you can do with your child(ren) anytime, anywhere and you don’t need a Chromebook or an iPad or anything like that. I thought you might like a break from such things! 

This week’s tip comes after reading this article in the New York Times about the benefit of asking children big philosophical questions. It gets them thinking and builds their confidence in their own ideas and to ask their own questions – crucial for budding lifelong learners. 

Try asking these questions or come up with your own. I am sure you will be proud of and/or entertained by your child(ren)’s creativity and logic and I would love for you to share your child’s thinking with me at

  • Can trees think?
  • Do you think dogs have more fun than humans?
  • Is everything in the whole world connected?
  • What is the difference between grown-ups and children?
  • Can you be happy without being sad sometimes?
  • Do you think your pet has a name for you?
  • If you could give a gift to every child in the world, what would you give?
  • If you could make one rule for everyone in the world to follow, what would it be?
  • Is it ok to tell a lie? If so, why?
  • Would you break the law to help someone you love?
  • If you could go back in time, what would you change?
  • What superpower would you choose and why?
  • What makes you really happy?
  • What animal would be good at driving a car?

Counselor’s Corner: Student Connection

“Recess!”  It’s the number one answer students offer when asked why they like school.  Although some educators might find this upsetting, I am never offended or surprised.  After all, children are social beings and need to feel connected to their peers.  Just as we enjoy a chat with our colleagues, students too look forward to talking with their classmates in a less structured, personal way. With COVID-19 restrictions and the need for physical distancing ever more important, you as a parent may be wondering how ISY is attempting to meet this need of social connection.  So far, here is what we offer:

  • Morning meetings: Each day your child engages in a morning session that not only organizes their day, it facilitates connections through energizing games and team building activities.
  • Virtual Recess: Starting September 14, each grade level will be invited to attend a social zoom meeting one day next week to connect socially and interact though play.  We will assess this program regularly to determine how to best move forward successfully. 
  • Classroom agreements: Created by each individual classroom, they are tailored to the needs of students.  As a community, the students generated the ideas in which they felt would best support and connect them as a group. 
  • Technology: Students have access to their school gmail and hang-out accounts to connect with friends outside of class time.  Hang-outs and Google Meets have video features which allows students to interact face to face.  Please note, the use of technology outside of school hours is unsupervised.
  • Counseling Support: If your child is struggling with friendships, I am available to support them.  I am happy to meet with them online and discuss strategies for building social connections.

As a parent, you may be wondering what you can do.

  • Be present and listen: Check in with your child.  See how they are feeling and ask about their friendships. Listen to how they are feeling and reflect that you understand.  Often parents want to protect their child from uncomfortable feelings but that isn’t always possible.  Simply listening and expressing empathy can go a long way.
  • Be creative:  Although regular face to face play dates may not be possible, are there other ways to provide quality connections?  Use technology and the many social media platforms to support your child but remember to supervise these activities.
  • Get support: Parents throughout our community are struggling with these issues.  Reach out and ask how they are dealing with the many challenges of Covid-19.  Further, the ISY counseling staff are present and ready to support your family.

Patty Amundson-Geisel

Elementary Counselor

Previous Elementary School Posts