Remote Learning Where Students Thrive and Parents are Happy

SADDLE RIVER, N.J., June 9, 2020 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- "There's no place like home," may be an iconic line from the Wizard of Oz, but as families navigate the unchartered waters of remote learning, the phrase has taken on new meaning. There is growing concern among parents that remote learning may leave students falling behind academically, feeling isolated emotionally, and apathetic towards learning. Dissatisfaction stems from daily emails with homework, sometimes supplemented by half days of online classes; some schools have given up on grades, while others have given up on established curriculums and expectations for students. While 'there's no place like the classroom,' Saddle River Day School (SRDS) has distinguished itself in remote learning through innovative efforts that maintain quality education and student engagement.

"We started planning for remote learning in February just in case," said Jalaj Desai, the Head of School. That planning included setting objectives, establishing guiding principles, selecting the technology platform (Google Classroom), agreeing on class schedules, and training the faculty. "I think of our approach as a bit like the Wizard of Oz: we needed to stimulate the Brain, touch the Heart and find some Courage," said Laura Hollis, the Director of Technology.

To stimulate the Brain SRDS focuses on academics and arts that inspire a love of learning. To do that in the classroom is one thing, but to bring that to remote learning is another. From day one in late March, students in Middle and Upper Schools have been meeting in live online classes with teachers and peers for their normal 8:00-3:15 class schedule. Teachers revise their lesson plans to stay on track with the curriculum and to engage students in a different way - for example, using virtual whiteboards and inviting guest speakers. Parents and students alike feel the continuity was key to reduce angst given so many other changes in people's lives. Science labs, interactive 'in-class' projects, student presentations, art projects and even jazz band jamming online brings a sense of normalcy to unusual times.

"I didn't know what to expect with online learning. It's not as fun as seeing my friends every day, but I was surprised we've kept a regular pace and are learning all we're supposed to - I felt fully prepared for my Advanced Placement exams," said Stephen Savas, a senior in the Upper School.
Remote learning for K-5 presents different challenges, but again, SRDS finds ways to make it work. Students in the Lower School have several daily lessons, check-ins, small group sessions, and one-on-one sessions with their teachers, as well as live classes with specialty teachers in Science, Spanish, Physical Education, Music, Ideas/Tech Lab and Art. "While many elementary school parents I speak with feel like they've become the home-school teachers, at SRDS the teachers are so involved, I feel like I'm just a guide to compliment their efforts," said a parent, Kim Lawrie. A behavior specialist continues to meet with the Lower School classes and discuss social or emotional issues that pertain to each grade.

To touch the Heart of the community members has been critical for all. Emails, Facebook postings and video messages several times per week keep everyone informed and connected. Virtual 'common spaces' keep school clubs going, while a virtual faculty room provides space for teachers to unwind, share best practices and have some fun. School Spirit days and trivia-like online games add a different kind of fun to break up the routine for teens. Happy birthday choruses and the Lower School head dressed as a queen brings joy to the faces of Lower School students each week.

The community came together - online - with a purpose: to help during the crisis, making protective masks, delivering food, and fundraising (e.g., GoFundMe: Crocs for Docs) for a local hospital. Giving with purpose, mindfulness and gratitude are some of the messages students hear about with a weekly 'Wellness Letter' from the school counselor. Students and faculty are encouraged to go outside, exercise, cook and eat with their families, explore a new hobby, practice music, and create art; many share their passions online through "Quaran-teen videos" with the community. The school chef has even provided instructional cooking videos for anyone who finds themselves spending more time in the kitchen!

To find some Courage is vital to innovate in any setting and that's been the case for the school's success with remote learning. Planning early was key, but it was a bold move to stick with regular schedules and a full curriculum to keep students on track, engaged, and healthy. Frequent communications with faculty, students, and parents was necessary to get buy in with the ambitious approach, sustain active participation, and deliver results.

Spring hasn't ended but SRDS is already planning for in-class, remote, and hybrid learning scenarios for next fall; lessons learned will even be brought back into the classroom. Mr. Desai says, "It would be nice if we could click our heels three times and get everything back to normal, but whatever environment we face, our school and community will be ready to help our students thrive."

About Saddle River Day School
Saddle River Day School is a nonprofit, nondiscriminatory, co-educational, college-preparatory independent day school accredited by the State of New Jersey. It is a member of the New Jersey Association of Independent Schools and the National Association of Independent Schools. The Saddle River Day School mission is to inspire each child to achieve personal and academic excellence and to become a caring and ethical contributor to society. Visit us at .

Media Contacts:
Gretchen Lee
Director of Communication
Saddle River Day School
Tel: 201-327-4050

Danny Brown
Director of Outreach
Saddle River Day School
Tel: 201-341-1959

SOURCE Saddle River Day School