Communicast: Smyth Road school teachers [Like Mr. O] rock!

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We’ve never seen Phys Ed like this. Of course, we’ve never seen a pandemic like this either. Covid-19 changes everything about school & how we reassure children.

Dancing to Cotton eyed Joe & Mr. O
Physical Ed. Dancing to Cotton-Eyed Joe & Mr. O. | photo Keith Spiro

We all saw the headline but yikes, what’s your reaction if you are a teacher, parent or student?

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Mr. O and I have worked together before but never like this.  I enjoyed Lego club with our family’s second-grader but when remote learning started, I found myself pressed into service as a para-professional by my recently-returned from-retirement teacher/wife.  Seemingly overnight, we transformed our favorite living space into a one-room-schoolhouse to accommodate the kindergartener, second- and fourth-graders ensconced there.

For readers who are not working their own job while leading lessons for their kids via work sent home by teachers suddenly thrust into distance learning, let me tell you the deluge can be overwhelming. This is the hardest job I never had ’til now – and I’m only the science enrichment, math and recess/snack king around here. Really, it’s great.  A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be part of your kids’ world. Fully attendant, fully present.  Most everyone involved would agree they worked harder in the first three weeks of remote learning than when school was actually in session in the school building.

Our experience centers around Smyth Road School. The leadership there is wonderful and the teachers are all amazing and care deeply for these kids. They were among the first to launch a ‘We Miss You’ video which set the tone for the tight connections that have followed. What I’ve learned quickly is that teachers aren’t paid enough money and Physical Education is under-rated.  Mr. O, Physical Ed teacher Jack Oolders, is an integral part of our remote learning teaching experience. PE is not a diversion but a life-saving moment where all of us learn to improvise, rescue a day gone long and just plain appreciate downtime and free play.

school logo Roadrunners
Smyth Road Roadrunners

Mr. O has become the crazy glue that holds our one-room schoolhouse together. It’s the one activity that everyone does together – even if it’s not their day for gym. And both of us adults are mixing right in there with them.

“I think right now – silly – is what the kids need,”

“I think right now – silly – is what the kids need,” says Mr. O when I ask him what is the most interesting thing he’s learned through this experience. Less is more and for them “to be able to see me, someone that they know, being goofy and having fun – a bit of levity – being in their lives in a happy way – that’s  a success!”  And indeed it is.  We five all line up for PE time. Mr. O’s top performance is Disco Fever but we’ve also learned how to juggle with the now banished single-use plastic grocery bags. We look ridiculous doing the Martian Hop and even the Backyard Bunny hop took on new meaning when it arrived in time for Easter.

We are all learning to improvise, be flexible and truly listen to each other to make these memorable days just that – memorable. The 7 year old says the best thing about the One Room Schoolhouse is that he can have a snack anytime he wants to. And I, who have spent years in startup accelerators and co-working space, know that food and a fully-stocked kitchen at hand are an integral part of the future of work.

The best entrepreneurial business teams seek out the best experiences and collaborative space is filled with shared time, food and attention.

Thank you Smyth Road School staff for all that you do to reassure and still teach our children.

School Stories Matter:

I’m sure there are other examples of amazing collaborative work taking place between families, teachers and students during this remote learning experience. Have a good story about leadership and learning you want to share?  Please contact me:  Your school experience might just be featured on #Communicast or in Manchester Ink Link.

About this Author

Keith Spiro

Advisor & ContributorInk Link News, Arts & Culture

Business Strategist, Community Builder with a keen interest in working with high-impact startups and other organizations that can make a difference in community and health.