The inaugural conference of the NYS/NYC Professional Development and Resource Center (PDRC) for Religious and Independent Schools was to take place in May, with a keynote address at the Fordham Manhattan campus followed by three borough conferences. And then COVID-19 changed the world. We scratched our plans, and working from home adopted a proactive approach to support teachers and school leaders who suddenly had to continue educating their students, but from home. There were two apparent and immediate needs: the emotional wellness of children and adults, and guidance in organizing a virtual school, supporting and training teachers on distance teaching, and attend to the academic learning of the students.
In order to fulfill these immediate needs, we sought the collaboration of two exceptional individuals: Dr. Amelio D’Onofrio, a clinical psychologist and formerly a Fordham professor with an extensive experience in the field of mental health, and Dr. Adele Ellis a school principal and a certified technology coach by the International Society of Technology in Education (ISTE) who had transformed a well-rounded but traditional school into a vibrant and dynamic environment through the implementation of distance learning. And with their collaboration, we launched the PDRC Lunch & Learn webinars on April 1st and April 2nd. Registration to both reached its capacity within hours, and based on the feedback received, we know that they met the expectations of participants, and therefore fulfilled a critical need at a very difficult time.
In his webinar, D. Amelio D’Onofrio acknowledged that teachers and school leaders were on the front lines of the pandemic, and their sense of helplessness and powerlessness should not be underestimated. For some, he added there was also loss and grief. At the same time, he emphasized that we must recognize the resilience demonstrated by teachers, school leaders, students and their families, and shared ways to cope in time of adversity. He emphasized that, “Gratitude and fear are incompatible states”. The challenge, he continued, “is not to recoil from adversity in fear, but to find the strength to continue to come our of ourselves and stay present. Adversity is a wonderful opportunity because it forces us to deeper, to go inward, Life becomes unbearable when we only live it on the surface. When we’re in our comfort zone, when things are going well, there is no need to go deeper”.
Dr. Adele Ellis, was interviewed by a parent of one of the students. She knew her principal and the school community well and therefore, they communicated in a natural and authentic manner about how parents felt as a result of the health crisis, and how she supported both parents and her staff. Dr. Ellis explained how she continued her informal classroom visits, albeit that today these visits meant using a password and join a Google classroom. She shared the individual support that she provides to veteran and new teachers alike, and how they all have learned to use zoom and the phone to stay in touch and connected. She highlighted the value of the weekly parent newsletter and the need to be flexible and continuously adjust to move forward. Dr. Ellis practical approach to school management and familiarity with technology was reassuring to participants who took with them specific suggestions and helped them formulate realistic next steps. We invite you to view both webinars by accessing the full recordings of the sessions: Dr. D’Onofrio and Dr. Ellis.
And do not miss their next webinar as part of the PDRC Leadership Webinar Series – June 2020: