Maureen Sweeney ’01
Maureen Sweeney ’01 shares how she was able to look to her Mayfield experience to meet the teaching challenges of remote learning.
As a first-grade teacher at The John Thomas Dye School, I love starting my morning as one community, much like I remember starting each day as a Mayfield Junior School student. We come together to share announcements, birthdays, and express gratitude for the day upon us. I value the personal connections I have with students, parents, and colleagues and often reflect back on my own education. I try to emulate my teachers at Mayfield Junior School, who created memorable experiences in all they did and acted with kindness, all while having high academic expectations.
Nothing could have prepared teachers around the world to suddenly shift to the “new normal” of remote learning, but it was with a Mayfield Junior School lens that I was able to adjust. “Actions not Words” never rang truer as teachers took action in preparing the best remote experience for their students.
Mayfield Junior School students are challenged to reach their potential in a traditional yet innovative way while also being intellectually challenged in a creative environment. Here I was, my 11th year teaching, and I had the opportunity to live the words used to describe a Mayfield student. Once we transitioned to remote learning, we had to prioritize our academic curriculum and find creative ways to deliver new content. Suddenly, the morning assemblies I looked forward to every day were now on Zoom with my first graders. I couldn’t high five, hug, or fist bump each student as they entered in the classroom, but enjoyed hearing all the children say hello to every individual classmate when they would sign on to our Zoom morning meeting. At the end of first grade, we have special traditions that we would have to plan remotely – what would that look like? This was my opportunity to grow as a teacher. I would be intellectually challenged while being innovative and creative in a way I could have never imagined.
As a Mayfield student, I learned that in order to be my best self, I needed to be a supportive collaborator, connect with others in my community and that my growth as a student was a mixture of academics and social-emotional needs. Never have these skills been so important and crucial during this unprecedented time. Remote learning required me to be a supportive collaborator with my first-grade team, administration, and parents. As a teacher, I am committed to educating “the whole child,” a term that was instilled in me as a student and now as an educator, I know the importance of educating “the whole child.” Although nothing can truly emulate the experience of learning in the classroom, during this time of remote learning I am proud that we focused on the whole child as we planned our remote learning program. We sustained a rigorous curriculum while also recognizing the social-emotional needs of the first graders, who often just wanted more time to connect with their teacher and friends. We provided 1:1 check-in times, small group work, had Writing Workshop celebrations, showcased our Poetry Presentation, learned addition and subtraction with regrouping to 100, and planned our beloved First Grade Half Over, virtually of course. We had tough days when the internet would disconnect, printers wouldn’t work, and emotions ran high, but we also had a lot of fun together and finished the year with a special bond. I tried to mimic the spirit of warmth and love that I received from my Mayfield Junior teachers and pass that spirit onto my own students as we navigated remote learning together. This truly was a year I will never forget!