Making The Grade 2021

Page 1

Making the Grade 2021

A look at education in the Berkshires and Southern Vermont

A special publication of The Berkshire Eagle, Bennington Banner, Manchester Journal and Brattleboro Reformer | February 27, 2021

2 | | |

Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021



Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

Making the Grade 2021

Lessons learned | Hybrid, remote teaching likely to stay at most local colleges


The secret to virtual learning? Routine, routine … and flexibility


Burr and Burton’s culture of care and support steadies the ship in a storm


Your parenting questions, answered


The pandemic has been tough on kids. Try these 7 tips to build their resilience 20 Six strategies for parents struggling with work-fromhome interruptions 24 AP tests return to regular length this spring


Right now, it’s OK ‘to not be perfect’ | Working and parenting in the same space calls for a little grace 28 3 ways educators can use newspapers in the classroom


On the cover: Photo by MChe Lee/UnSplash Above: Photo by Metro Creative Connections

learning mission Maple Street School is a joyful academic community that cultivates personal and social responsibility. We nurture intellectual and creative growth through an engaging curriculum. Our culture of respect inspires confident learners.

Maple Street School Kindergarten - 8th grade

802-362-7137 | | |

What’s Inside


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 4

Lessons learned Hybrid, remote teaching likely to stay at most local colleges BY DANNY JIN The Berkshire Eagle


At Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts In North Adams, Mass., a student receives a temperature check during move-in day in August 2020.

We are here for youth and families.

Groundbreaking early childhood services.

United Counseling Service provides: • Family Emergency Services (FES) • Family outreach services • Therapeutic case management • Respite services • School-based services • Jump on Board for Success (JOBS) • Transitional Living Program • Teens for Change Youth Group • Camp Be A Kid • Mentoring at UCS • Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids (PUCK)

To learn more, visit

United Counseling Service is a Vermont Care Partners center of excellence.

United Children’s Services is a division of United Counseling Service. We provide: • Bennington County Head Start • Bennington County Early Head Start • Infant and Toddler Center (childcare) • Parenting and family education • Family outreach Join our team! We have current employment opportunities.

To learn more, visit

Head Start® is a registered trademark of HHS.

During a four-week workshop over the summer, faculty members at Berkshire Community College became students — at least when it came to learning strategies for remote and hybrid teaching. Seventy-three of BCC’s 142 fulltime faculty participated in the training. “We wanted faculty to have the student experience, and I think faculty learned a lot from doing that,” said Lauren Foss Goodman, dean of the Pittsfield, Mass., college’s teaching and learning innovation division, which BCC established in 2019. “And every time we got frustration, we pointed out, ‘If you didn’t like how we presented this or what we did, don’t do this to your students.’” Last spring, the novel coronavirus pandemic forced higher education institutions to shift to remote and hybrid teaching. For some, this was an almost entirely new experiment. Others had already planned to expand online offerings, but the pandemic sped up the rollout. “The foundation and all the support structures were there,” Goodman said of the college’s online courses, which have been offered in some capacity since 2001. “We just really, really had to ramp it up.” Five local colleges shared what they learned in the last year, what worked and what didn’t and what they hope to improve on going forward.

Challenges faced When designing online courses, many institutions realized it couldn’t be a one-size fits all virtual learning experience for its student population. It’s important to remember that

students may have a disability, whether they’ve disclosed it or not, said Gerol Petruzella, director of academic technology at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Mass.. Landmark College’s online courses, like all of its courses, are “engineered” for students with diverse learning needs. The private college in Putney, Vt., is designed for students with learning disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. “Some people are wired differently, and they have some different challenges,” said Landmark President Peter Eden. “Landmark’s model is replete with support systems.” Disparities in access to the internet and technology also present a barrier for some students. At Williams College, in Williamstown, Mass., that meant providing hotspots and other solutions for students working remotely, Dean of the College Marlene Sandstrom wrote in an email.

Measuring success Although grades in the spring and fall were “pretty consistent” with most BCC semesters, there was a slight increase in the number of students who failed courses. That development was “not dramatic, but also not unexpected,” Goodman said. Students — like all of us — faced increased struggles during the pandemic with health, finances, child care and more. To account for this, BCC encouraged faculty to rely less on highstakes, “summative” exams and papers in favor of shorter, “formative” assessments, Goodman said. When faculty give feedback on smaller assignments, students can adjust accordingly. While some private colleges, including Williams College, allowed students to take courses pass/fail, it’s tougher for community colleges to provide those options, Goodman said. Many pass/fail credits cannot be transferred, which is something many community col-

What we learned

allowed students to have the most success, aligning with national trends for community colleges. Expanding hybrid and remote teaching helps ensure students have options for courses that fit their academic and lifestyle needs, Goodman said. The pandemic led Landmark to experiment with “block scheduling,” and it will likely permanently shift from traditional semesters to shorter periods with fewer

courses, Eden said. “A lot of people don’t think [the semester system] works well, taking 12 or 15 credits over 14, 15 weeks, if you’ve got a learning disability,” Eden said. “There’s a huge potential pool of skilled workers that cannot get through college because of a traditional educational orthodoxy and model.” Holding summer courses online, which MCLA will do again this year, allowed the college to have

its highest ever number of summer students, said Ely Janis, its interim dean of academic affairs. At Bennington, Coburn said he looks forward to resuming inperson instruction, a key part of its identity as a small residential college. But, he said, the past few months showed that “more aspects of a Bennington education are effective in online learning environments than maybe we expected before.”

A K-5 independent progressive education that emphasize: outdoor education problem solving critical thinking & community Summer 2021, moving to our forever home in Manchester, Vermont! | | |

While the past year was difficult in many ways for these institutions and their students, there were some positive lessons learned that will shape higher education moving forward. BCC found that hybrid formats


Masked students walk the campus of Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, Mass., in October 2020.

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

lege students are looking to do. Instead, faculty offered flexibility in other ways, including allowing students to take an “incomplete” in order to make up the remaining work during a later term, Goodman said. At Bennington College, a private liberal arts college in Bennington, Vt., faculty write end-of-term narrative evaluations for each student rather than assigning letter grades. That system made the college better suited for the pandemic, said Noah Coburn, associate dean for curriculum and pedagogy. Descriptive evaluations, which focus on what a student did, rather than normative ones, which judge how well a student did based on a particular metric, can better capture what someone accomplished in a course, Coburn said.


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 6

“I didn’t know school could be like this.” Vibrant discovery in early childhood. Joyful adventure in elementary school. A bold quest in middle school. Meaningful college preparation in high school. Our schools meet every stage of a young person’s development, from 18 months through 18 years, with an education that promotes inquiry, imagination, and responsibility. We graduate human beings ready to meet their futures.

We welcome students at all grade levels. Call or email us to learn more.

ROBYN COE Great Barrington, MA 413-528-4015

SARAH BLEXRUD Stockbridge, MA 413-298-3800

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021


Svandis Danzer keeps a close watch on her 5-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son as they navigate the novel world of virtual education in the midst of a global pandemic. Danzer, an émigré from Iceland and a second-and third-grade special needs paraprofessional in New York’s Hudson Valley region, is involved in a hybrid back-and-forth

work situation herself, and acknowledges that parents must use creative strategies to keep children focused while they are at home “I keep [my daughter] engaged by using a rewards system,” Danzer said. “For her, it is hard to sit still for long periods of time, so even though the teacher tries to keep the online meetings short, they can get lengthy.” Danzer praises her daughter on a job well done and if she shows good


Joinusforawesome classesonzoom! Yoga Check our website for reopening date 532 Main St., Bennington, VT 802-447-0393 (enter in back, above DMV)

Calm Mind Fit Body Inspired Life




The secret to virtual learning? Routine, routine … and flexibility


Hiland Hall School

A Progressive Primary and Middle School for students age 5-14 Founded on the principles of John Dewey and other progressive thinkers, The Hiland Hall School is a state approved independent school with a commitment to meaningful learning in an atmosphere of trust and respect. For more information contact us at: 802-442-3868 2196 Harwood Hill Rd., Bennington, VT Hiland Hall School is a non-profit organization and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation. | | |



Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 8


Stoneleigh-Burnham School

Here are some tips to help keep your child engaged at home during virtual learning • Understand the screen time expectations for distance learning. • Determine what type of activities work best for your child.

Same mission, lower tuition

• Encourage physical movement/exercise. • Reduce distractions

• Adjust schedules as needed. • Use a checklist for focus. • Give your child (and yourself) a break. • Provide immediate positive feedback/validation. Source: Linda Carling, Ed.D, Johns Hopkins University School of Education (https://education.jhu. edu/2020/04/8tipsforfocus/)


listening throughout the entire meeting, she gets a star. Once she reaches five stars, she gets a small prize, like an inexpensive trinket, or a small scoop of ice cream. Danzer’s son requires a different approach. “My 10-year-old doesn’t require as much encouragement as he is very self-sufficient,” Danzer said. “Knowing that he may get a little more iPad time is enough encouragement for him because that has literally been one of the few ways for him to communicate with his friends.” For many parents juggling work and virtual schooling during a global pandemic, this is a familiar scene. To make it all work, creativity, mixed with patience and flexibility, is the order of the day. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, according to Jennifer Daily, a Housatonic, Mass.-based licensed social worker and child behavior specialist and counselor.

“Context is everything,” Daily said. “In our lifetimes, we have never been faced with just the logistical challenges of the pandemic, let alone the emotional weight it’s putting on kids and parents. For this reason, mutual partnerships are critical to helping children be successful.” When considering situations such as Danzer’s, where children, and possibly parents, can find themselves in a classroom one day, and at home the next based on confirmed COVID-19 cases in a school district, Daily said that “being on the same page with your kids is of paramount importance.” “Creating partnerships is a basic way of helping your children succeed with their education in this unpredictable environment,” Daily said. “Ask yourselves: What's working? What’s not working? How can we work together and how can I support you to make it more workable?” Children, Daily continued, are

Reading aloud to children is one of the joys of parenting. All children, whether they're infants, toddlers or school-aged, can benefit from being read to, and parents whose youngsters have grown up often look back on story time as some of their favorite moments as moms and dads. Reading aloud to children is about more than just establishing a bond between parent and child. According to Reading Rockets, a national public media literacy initiative, children as young as infants can benefit from being read to. Infants can look at pictures as their parents point to them and say the names of the various objects within them. By drawing attention to the pictures and associating words with them and real-world objects, parents are helping infants learn the importance of language. Kids of all ages can benefit from being read to, even after they learn to read on their own. The following are a handful of ways that reading aloud to children can benefit them. Reading to children dramatically expands their vocabulary. A 2019 study published in the Journal of De-

321 Park Street, Bennington, VT 802.447.0220

velopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics found that young children whose parents read them five books a day enter kindergarten having heard roughly 1.4 million more words than kids who were never read to. The disparity is even significant when comparing kids who are periodically read to each day with kids who are read five books per day. Children who are read to daily may hear slightly less than 300,000 words prior to entering kindergarten, while those read five books per day will hear more than 1.4 million words. Reading to children expands their imaginations. The Northern Virginia Family Services reports that research has shown that children who activate their imaginations through being read to develop higher activity in the area of their brain that's responsible for cultivating mental images and deciphering and comprehending verbal cues. That heightened activity bolsters youngsters' imaginations and instills in them a greater fondness for reading. Reading can help kids learn to focus. Parents of young children no doubt know that such youngsters rarely sit still for any significant length of time. However, when being read to, young children, even those who are initially reluctant to engage in story

time, will learn to sit still for the duration of the book. That can help them learn to focus, a benefit that will pay dividends when children begin school. Reading to children can speak to children's interests or emotional needs. Reading Rockets notes that children's favorite stories may speak to their emotional needs and interests. That's why so many youngsters insist on reading a favorite book over and over again. Though that's often boring for parents, it can benefit youngsters, who will eventually move on to other books.


Telly Halkias is a national awardwinning, independent journalist. He lives and writes from his homes in Southern Vermont and coastal Maine. E-mail:, Twitter: @TellyHalkias

How kids benefit from being read to

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

not information systems specialists and at times parents and teachers are asking a lot of their executive functioning. This includes: shifting, working memory, attending to tasks, prioritizing, focusing and organizing, among other actions. “They need way more help in this regard than most of us realize, and so validation is foundational to healthy relationships,” Daily said. Andrea Lein, a mental health expert and former head of the John Dewey School in Great Barrington, Mass., agreed, adding that “keeping things simple, familiar and organized enables success,” which ultimately supports validation of even small victories — however routine or mundane. “One very simple thing parents can do, whether homeschooling or supervising children who are learning virtually, is to think through and use the simple family routine to their advantage,” Lein said. “Schedules and daily rhythms can greatly help this, and parents can reaffirm or adjust these efforts as needed.” Some of the ways to make this work, according to Lein, are: writing out daily schedules on a whiteboard, keeping a timer on basic activities, and “having family huddles at the end of the day to both discuss plans, see what’s working and not working, and also to praise success.” “Predictability and an orderly atmosphere help create confidence,” Lein said. “The communication flow during the day between parents and their children supports that, as does taking a healthy break.” Danzer also finds making time for breaks helps her family. “It’s been important to break away from screens and to just change the scenery whenever possible,” Danzer said. “I try to take my kids outside for walks, bike rides and most recently we have been playing in the snow a lot. Fresh air helps clear the mind and outdoor activities are great exercise.”


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 10

At Berkshire Montessori... we follow the child. Each individual enters our school with different knowledge and levels of readiness. Sure, there are basic skills that we all need to learn, but we don’t all learn them at the same time or in the same way. When children are allowed to learn at their own pace and take time to deeply explore their interests, they understand more and enjoy school more.

the environment is key. We believe a well prepared classroom environment is a great teacher. Our classrooms are neat, spacious, full of natural light and pleasing to the eye. Our teachers take great care to create a setting in which the children are free to learn, to explore, and to develop independence and positive work habits.

traditional academics are only one component of our education. Adults are often amazed at the level of academics students learn at a young age in Montessori classrooms, but it’s important to note that learning doesn’t stop there. We believe in educating the whole child, which means appealing to and supporting their growth socially, emotionally, and physically.


Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vt.

Headmaster Mark Tashjian does not blink, hedge, or pause when asked how Burr and Burton will get through the COVID-19 pandemic. “This is a crisis,” he says. “We really are a ship in a storm. When you are a ship in a storm, you need to both prevent yourself from capsizing and figure out the next course to take, so that when you do come out of the storm, you’re not lost.” This is an apt metaphor for the work of the leadership team in reopening Burr and Burton in the midst of a pandemic. They needed to put the basic structures in place to support teaching and learning, and in doing so, they sought to implement systems that would enhance teaching and learning in a post-COVID-19 world. They needed to make sure that students continued to learn, that relationships continued to thrive, and that every change reflected the values embedded in the school’s mission: responsibility, integrity, and service. Associate Head of School Meg Kenny credits the team’s flexible and proactive nature with the ability to develop systems in advance: “The summer of 2020 was about anticipating and not waiting. We didn’t wait for someone to tell us what to do. We said, ‘OK, we have a lot of creative capacity here; how can we do this?’”

New systems Every student, parent, faculty, staff member and administrator at Burr and Burton had to pivot hard and fast to meet the realities of COVID-19. Nevertheless, there were certain members of the community whose work changed overnight based on the nature of the pandemic. Starting last spring, Kirk Knutson’s advance work for the 202021 school year was an exercise in creative flexibility. As the director | | |


If on a crisp day last fall you put on a Bulldog mask and walked around the Burr and Burton Academy campus, trekking alongside the turf field and up the paths that lead to the academic buildings, you would have walked by masked students practicing on the field, sitting spaced apart in Adirondack chairs, and reading under brightly colored trees. You would have seen teachers running discussions with students in hybrid fashion: half remote, appearing in animated boxes on a large screen, and half sitting spaced apart in class. You would have seen care, diligence, respect, and joy. If you asked the school leadership team how they had managed to make reopening work, you would hear more or less the refrain captured by co-Dean of Students Tony Cirelli: “Everyone pitched in to make our reopening fairly seamless. The majority of folks at Burr and Burton are doing things above and beyond to help keep our school open and safe.” In September, after six months apart, Burr and Burton students, teachers and staff came back together. The hybrid learning model, a model where students spend approximately half of their time in person and half of their time connecting remotely, was ready to be tested. This model was BBA’s best attempt to balance the safety of all with the need for students to have a deeply connected learning community. Though the fall presented significant challenges for students and teachers alike, Burr and Burton pulled off a dynamic semester of meaningful teaching and learning; of innovative artistic experiences; and of serious athletic competition. It was not easy and it was not perfect, but it was a semester of which to be fiercely proud.

A ship in a storm

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

Burr and Burton’s culture of care and support steadies the ship in a storm


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 12

of admissions, Knutson’s spring is usually a busy time helping to facilitate sending-school tours and overseeing registrations and applications for prospective students. “For this year,” he noted, “not only did we have to find ways to introduce families to BBA remotely — while often being remote ourselves — but we had to do that at an unprecedented volume as so many families were looking for a safe place to have their children in school.” Director of Technology Amy Wright is another of these community members. When the pandemic hit, it was clear that technology would be central to maintaining safe and productive relationships. Wright reflects on the process, “Suddenly, there was a whole new [aspect of differentiated instruction] that we had to cut our teeth on. The impressive thing is that the whole faculty and administration took it as an opportunity.” Wright describes how seemingly small details, like how the video conference cameras are positioned in the classroom, have a huge affect on students’ experi-

ence. “Interestingly, when video conferencing was implemented in some colleges, the cameras faced only the professor,” Wright said. “We had conversations about what we wanted the experience to be like, and we wanted the kids to feel like they were together. Our positioning is to face the students in the room, so that remote and in-person students are facing each other.” A well-considered detail, the camera positioning gave structure to the hybrid classroom; students could see, hear, and interact with one another, almost as if seated in one big circle. It wasn’t the same as being all together, but once students acclimated to the set-up, there was a space for authentic interaction. As school nurse, Megan BeattieCassan’s expertise was critical to a successful reopening. Beattie-Cassan worked closely with the Vermont Department of Health as she helped the leadership team think through the safety of reopening. “Adapting Burr and Burton for reopening really meant looking at the environment and how we

could create spaces for students and employees to feel safe coming back during the pandemic,” Beattie-Cassan said. Beattie-Cassan was part of a team including Cirelli; creative arts teachers Paul Molinelli and Jim Raposa; campus monitor Nancy Biller; Dean of Faculty Michael Caraco; Associate Dean of Students Ken Stefanak; and others who had to consider the logistics of arriving at, moving around, and leaving campus in a time when personal space has taken on critical importance. The team met virtually and in person over the summer to determine the safest traffic flow for folks moving around campus buildings and to and from campus. “After that,” Cirelli recalls, “we had to figure out how to perform daily COVID-19 health screenings. While [the technology department] took the lead on the digital piece of the puzzle, the dean’s office created a campus plan to screen all of our students. Our school would not be in operation if it were not for those folks doing health screenings every day.”

A culture of care and support It’s a chilly November day, and with her office window open, clanging from the construction of Founders Hall only slightly invades Associate Head of School Meg Kenny’s peaceful office. She is thoughtful and intentional as she reflects on what made reopening Burr and Burton successful: “A big part of it is the care and professionalism of our faculty and their deep commitment to going above and beyond all the time and doing what’s right.” She continues, “I’m most proud of the fact that we planned, and communicated, and listened to our faculty’s concerns the best we possibly could. We showed up in September with the full force of our incredible faculty and staff, and that has meant the best possible outcome for our students.” Kenny’s genuine care and pride for her colleagues is apparent in conversation, and it calls to mind the first all-employee meeting of the 2020-21 school year, where the entire Burr and Burton team,


Find YOUR Future Here learn more at:


Burr and Burton Academy’s Class of 2020 took part in drive-up commencement exercises in the parking lot of Bromley Mountain Ski Resort in Peru, Vt.


“The Ready4K tips have helped me with my daughter and I always try to put them into practice.” – Berkshire County parent

This free* text messaging program provides educational and fun facts and tips to help your child learn. * No cost. Data and message rates may apply.

For ages 0-9. May enroll up to 3 children per cell number.

Enroll at

Whether it’s a person in need or a cohort in need, Burr and Burton comes together, figures it out and supports them. Because that’s what we practice over and over again, when something huge like this happened, we weren’t caught off guard.” Few people understand the nature of successful student relationships better than co-Dean of Students Cory Herrington. In addition to his role as a dean, Herrington is a social studies teacher and freshman school counselor. Herrington is acutely aware of how this culture of care and support impacts students. “One of the grounding principles that we live by here at Burr and Burton is that we are here for our students,” he said. “Our decisions, time and time again, come down to how can we make our current situation work for them. It's important to assess what has happened, look at safety, and engage the collective talents of our team to work through the daily and weekly challenges that we face.” And that’s what they did — and true to the nature of the school’s culture, Burr and Burton students rose to the challenge. Beattie-Cassan reflects, “I’m really proud of the students. They are wearing their masks and doing their part to keep everyone safe. I’m so impressed with how resilient they’ve been.” Fundamentally, all of the big

and small things that made BBA’s reopening successful would have been difficult or impossible without the underlying culture of care and support that thrives in the community.

Lead with love There is not just one thing or one person that steadies a ship in a storm. To make it through a storm, a ship must be strong, and its crew must be held together by deep commitment and common purpose. “It is easy to love Burr and Burton in the best of times,” notes Tashjian. “We are an incredible school that is deeply committed to serving students and serving communities. In navigating through this pandemic, what we have learned is the strength of our bonds; the depth of our commitment.” He reflects, “In everything I’ve done throughout my career, the thing that I cared about most in myself was a feeling of love for the purpose I was serving and the people who are achieving that purpose together. “I lead with love because it’s the only way I know how to lead. I just don’t think I’d be any good leading any other way.” Jill Perry-Balzano is the content manager at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, Vt. | | |

And this regenerative culture extends throughout the many kinds of relationships at BBA. Wright, who also teaches and coaches, explains, “Time and time again, the entire Burr and Burton community puts its members first.

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

masked and spaced apart, spread out under a huge white tent at the edge of the Judy McCormick Taylor Field. It was the first time the group had been together in five months, and in the context of the pandemic, it felt both nerve-wracking and exciting to be “together.” It was clear that it had taken the leadership team an immense amount of planning and hard work just to make it to Day One. With the new classroom technologies; directional arrows on the floors; antimicrobial tape on the door handles; hundreds of Adirondack chairs on the lawns; and a host of big, white tents, the learning landscape was transformed. When Kenny came to the podium to welcome the group, she received a long standing ovation. Put together, these two moments fully represent the renewable nature of Burr and Burton’s culture of care and support: a leadership team committed to elevating its talented faculty and staff in the work of educating students, paired with a faculty and staff that honors and deeply respects its leadership team.


14 | | |

Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021

BY MEGHAN LEAHY Special to The Washington Post

How do I get my thirdgrader to pay attention to online class? My third-grader spends much Q of her class time watching videos or going to other websites


I was hanging with you until you wrote "we also have a preA schooler and a baby," and then my mouth dropped. All of this, my friend, is too much. It's so hard for the parents who are raising young children during the pandemic. I want to gather everyone in a collective hug until this is over (but only hypothetically, because of social distancing). So, what are you going to do with your 8-year-old? It is not developmentally appropriate for an 8-year-old to sit in front of a computer all day. Period. I don't care how focused or mature or "smart" your child is; her young body and mind are not meant for that level of sitting and attention. This is not a slight to teachers and schools. We all know they're trying to keep children safe and continue their learning in an impossible situation. But we also have to stick to reality. The average attention span for an 8-yearold is approximately 16 to 40 minutes. Therefore, it's typical that she cannot pay attention for multiple

CONGRATULATIONS! and THANK YOU to the Berkshire Remote Learning Initiative (BRLI) participating districts, students, and families, and their CHAMPIONS! from BART charter, Berkshire Hills, Lee, Lenox, North Adams, Pittsfield, Richmond, and Mt. Greylock Schools. And DEEP THANKS and GRATITUDE to our 2,300+ partners and participants in developing the Barr Foundation PORTRAIT OF A GRADUATE - Drury High School, Lee Middle and High School, Pittsfield and Taconic High Schools, and Berkshire Arts & Technology (BART) charter school. Sponsored and funded by Berkshire County Education Task Force and our partners. For more information, please go to | | |

rather than paying attention in class. Whenever I walk into the room, she clicks back to her Zoom meeting and looks a little guilty. Do you have any suggestions on how to help her manage this, and how I can react effectively? I don't want her to feel ashamed of her computer habits, but I would like her to stay present in class and complete assignments. Her schoolwork is suffering because she is not paying attention; I have to sit with her every afternoon and talk her through completing work that should have been done during class time. We've blocked certain websites, but she always manages to find another distraction. She was easily distracted when school was in person, and I'm worried that online school is exacerbating the issue. When I try to talk to her about this, she gets angry and says she does not get enough screen time. She is, in fact, allowed screen time after she finishes her chores, but she often doesn't finish her chores, because she's finishing the schoolwork that she could have finished if she hadn't been playing games during class time. Her angry tantrums have always been an issue, but they've gotten worse since we've been staying at home. Every day feels like a losing battle. (I'm unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic, and we also have a preschooler and a baby, so I'm sure she is not getting as much attention as she needs.) I would love any advice or resources to help me manage my expectations of my 8-year-old's behavior. Thanks!

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

Your parenting questions, answered


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 16

Join us! St. Mary’s welcomes all children Preschool through 8th Grade


• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

NEASC Accredited, NCEA Member Rigorous Individualized Curriculum Dedicated Professional Educators Full-Day or Half-Day Preschool Preschool for 3-4 years old Pre-Kindergarten: 4-5 years old Before & After School Care Nutritious Hot Lunches Chromebook Lab Art, PE, Computer, Music, Library World Language Computer & Science Labs Regular Community Involvement/Service After School Clubs Social-Emotional Learning Middle School STEM and Robotics Programs

St. Mary’s School chool

Education with a Plus!

115 Orchard Street • Lee, Massachusetts 01238 •

...where every child shines!

lessons. Add to this the attractiveness of games (the brain would much prefer that dessert over the vegetables of spelling), and you are fighting a losing battle. First, accept that your daughter cannot sit all day. What do you do next? You have to get down the needs of the situation, and those needs are for you to make it out of this pandemic with as much emotional and physical wellness as possible. Not academic success, and not fighting your 8-year-old on homework. Your child may be falling behind, but here's the harsh reality: With some small exceptions, most children are falling behind. If this is the case, then you can decide to keep your relationship with her strong. As a parent coach, I am confident that your daughter will learn to read and write and do arithmetic, but the crying, tantrums and fighting are more worrisome. As you balance the pandemic and two other young children, it is unreasonable to also manage your child's learning and assignments. It's just too much. All of her learning won't mean much if you two hate each other at the end of the pandemic. I would first communicate with her teachers. Let them know about the struggles and the tantrums; I'm thinking they will be empathic. (Many of them are dealing with this with their own children at

home.) Next, focus on two or three subjects a day: reading, writing and math, for example. Complete just those three, and leave the rest behind. This doesn't mean that your daughter watches unboxing videos for the rest of the day; it means you stop fighting with her about what isn't developmentally typical. As you create this schedule, decide what else the day will include. Listening to podcasts or audio books, creating art (check out the Kennedy Center's Small Works Project with Mo Willems at, walking in nature, cooking and baking - there are endless possibilities. And yes, screen time. Whenever possible, try to go for "slow TV," or anything that isn't gaming.

My 7-year-old melts down about schoolwork. What should I do? Is there any way to get through Q to a 7-year-old in second grade that the amount of time she spends melting down and yelling about a simple school assignment that she could've mostly fi nished during class time and chose not to is longer than the amount of time it would take to do the assignment? We have never been super strict about homework, mostly because


What a great question. Has there ever been a way to conA vince 7-year-olds that they have

Next, be sure that the timing of the classwork makes sense for your daughter. Has she had downtime? Is she fed? Has she moved her body? Finally, call a mini-meeting with her, and set up a plan. Your ultimate goal isn't to raise a child who completes classwork; your ultimate goal is to raise a child who enjoys learning and is motivated to do it. Let's go slow and steady on this classwork issue; she's only 7. Step back and reassess. You'll get there. Good luck.

My son is sick of being online all day for school. How do I get him to do counseling — online? Any advice for getting a 7 Q ½-year-old second-grader to do therapy with the school counselor via Zoom when one of his big frustrations is all the tech he has to do for school? Yes, we have been talk-

ing to the counselor and teacher, and yes, I (the mom) am in therapy for my own anxiety, but my child really needs an outlet for his big feelings. He's a spirited, very bright kid who is highly social, in school 2 ½ hours a day, four times a week and is online for his homework, special classes (art, gym, etc.) and reading group with his regular teacher. He has been acting out in person and online, and he's highly frustrated and angry a lot. We don't blame him, and we're trying to connect as much as possible, but we really think he needs professional help. He did talk to the counselor online recently for a brief time, but I feel as if we may have a battle every time. I have nothing but empathy for A your entire family and for every family facing these same challenges. I know you're doing your very best during this awful time, so it's important to understand what is behind his big emotions in a deeper way. First, you are anxious. Did you know anxiety is highly hereditary? Environmental factors also play an

Richmond Consolidated School Providing opportunities for children to be happy, caring individuals as well as academic achievers with a lifelong love of learning by encouraging positive self-esteem, responsibility, mutual respect, and citizenship. Call to ask how your child can join us.

(413) 698-2207 • 1831 State Road, Richmond, MA 01254 • | | |

wasted their time screaming? In my time of working with families for about 20 years, as well as parenting three children, the answer is no, not really. The essence of what you want, which is what every parent wants, is for your child to understand your point of view, and hence, obey you without fits or questions. A wonderful dream, really. And I'm with you: It's maddening to watch your child "waste" their time melting down when you know it is well within their power to just do the work. But we aren't really talking about homework here. Allow me to explain. I don't know whether this is a learning-at-home pandemic issue or whether your child is in school and this is spillover, but I can as-

sure you either way: Your child is not making a conscious choice to melt down or be a quitter. I don't know why, but your child is overwhelmed and needs support. It could be that she has an undiagnosed learning issue. It could be hunger. It could be a reaction to your pushing and pushing to complete the assignment. It could be that she's bored and doesn't want to revisit the material. I have no idea why your daughter is upset, but you need to reshape your goals. To move forward, you have to admit that just because you now care about the schoolwork doesn't mean your daughter does. To go from zero attention to now expecting enthusiasm doesn't seem to be working, so stop expecting that from her. We see that she's resisting this, so get down to the why. First, call the teacher and clarify what's happening in school, as well as what the teacher expects. Ask if the teacher sees any executive functioning issues. Explain the behaviors you're seeing at home, and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

we thought it was inappropriate before, but now it's actually classwork and not homework, and her teachers are overall understanding. But occasionally, she needs to be able to accomplish some schoolwork without falling apart, right?


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 18


important role, but it's not surprising that your son is showing signs of anxiety. Second, "spirited" and "very bright" are parenting code words for many things, but I tend to look at giftedness and executive functioning issues. The difficult part of it is your son can be gifted and separately anxious, or he can be gifted, but it looks like anxiety. Confused yet? Because the human brain is complicated and beautiful, it can develop coping mechanisms to try to side step, or "help," the original problem, making it hard to diagnose what's going on with your son. Is he anxious, angry and frustrated because he's gifted and life is moving too slowly and he doesn't have coping skills? Or is he simply anxious, which also manifests in anger and frustration? On top of all this, I don't know how long he has had these big feelings. Is this a new development during the pandemic, or has he been an intense child since he was born? I also don't know whether there have been any transitions in the family, such as losses, moves, additions, etc. We have this intense, bright and frustrated child who is understandably suffering under the weight of a strange hybrid education. He is 7, which is a wonderful developmental age (each age has its ups and downs), but he clearly cannot express his feelings without boiling over. It makes sense to want to use a counselor, but there are two big issues: This requires more screen time (thumbs down) and a trusting relationship with the therapist (which takes time). Although we all assume that counselors help people because they are so skilled, it's actually the warm, compassionate relationship between child and counselor that allows for change to take place. Without trust and an inherent sense of safety, the child is no more likely to be helped by a counselor than by a person on the street. All of this to say: Don't put all your eggs in the counselor basket. It flies in the face of all reason to "battle" to get your child to speak to the online counselor. If there is mild resistance and he's happy when he's there, great. But battle? It feels as if you're adding

frustration to frustration. Let's get some new ideas going. 1. You see your child the most, so look into how you can parent your anxious child. There are so many ways to support your child in building coping skills, including online classes at the Neufeld Institute ( and the website Hey Sigmund ( 2. If you think this is a long-term problem, call your pediatrician to rule out allergies and other biological reasons that could lead to anger and frustration. 3. I asked my friend Fallyn Smith for her advice, because she works as an elementary school counselor and coach. She told me: "Make sure to acknowledge him for being willing to do that first session." Celebrate small movements forward. Parents want change, and we want it fast, but we need baby steps here. Smith also recommends that your son see the counselor in person during the hybrid hours, because that will help move the relationship along. 4. Smith made a recommendation that I found useful: Ask your son's teacher to lessen the workload on the days he sees the counselor. He's only 7; there's no need to push the academics, especially if he's feeling emotionally vulnerable. 5. If the counselor is using techniques to help your son relax (box or deep-belly breathing, visualization, etc.), please be sure to model these yourself. Your son is too young to remember these techniques in the midst of frustration - not to mention, they will help your own anxiety. 6. Finally, Smith says (and I agree) that it's important to normalize this kind of suffering right now. Let your son know he's doing the best he can in a pretty tough situation, and so many other children feel just like he does. Good luck. Meghan Leahy is a parent coach and the author of "Parenting Outside the Lines" (Penguin Random House, August 2020).

Muddy Brook Regional Elementary School Monument Valley Regional Middle School Monument Mountain Regional High School

Imagine Yourself Here

Q Outstanding Education Q Arts, Music, Drama Q Vocational Programs Q Sports and after school activities Q Community Service

Leave here for …

g 2 or 4 Year College (86.75% of graduates), including Northwestern, Northeastern, Harvard, MIT, UMASS, Berkshire Community College and technical colleges. g Public Service, including the military and police (1.2% of graduates) g Ready for Work (9.40% of graduates) g Gap Year or Prep School (2.65% of graduates)

413-298-4017 x 718 | | |

Be here for …

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

Berkshire Hills Regional School District


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 20

The pandemic has been tough on kids. Try these 7 tips to build their resilience


BY PHYLLIS FAGELL Special To The Washington Post

Educating and Promoting Healthy Communities in the Berkshires since 1979 • Continuing Education for Health Care Professionals • Medical Interpreter Training • AHEC Health Scholars’ Program @ BCC • Tobacco Free Community Partnership • MA Food Allergen Awareness Training • Conference Management

Please visit our Website or like us on Facebook for information on upcoming events! To learn more contact us at: (413) 842-5160 395 Main St. Union Block Dalton, MA 01226

When Nick von Hindenburg, 12, moved from the Netherlands to Washington, D.C., at the start of seventh grade, the pandemic and online school limited his opportunities to make friends. But after moving seven times and living on three continents, he had the skills to adapt. "I've never been in this exact situation before, but I've had to adjust to different cultures, traditions and ways of teaching," Nick said. He understands that life is more like a jungle gym than a ladder, said his mother, Anisha Abraham, a pediatrician at Children's National Hospital and author of "Raising Global Teens: A Practical Handbook for Parenting in the 21st Century." "Challenge and change have made him stronger." For many children across the United States, the pandemic is the first time they've had to deal with a disruption of this scale, and some are faring better than oth-

ers. As a school counselor, I know that parents of struggling kids feel powerless and worry about longterm emotional fallout. Although caregivers can't always alter children's circumstances or shield them from discomfort, they can offer a more enduring gift: tools to manage adversity. "Resilience works like a muscle we can build through effort and repetition, and we want to keep our muscles strong and flexible, so we can think of many ways to solve a problem," says Mary Alvord, co-author of "Resilience Builder Program for Children and Adolescents." "At the core, resilience is the belief that while you can't control everything in your life, there are many aspects you can control, including your attitude." Here are seven ways adults can help children cope with adversity and retain a hopeful outlook during the pandemic — and long after it ends.

LEVERAGE THEIR INTERESTS Fan the flames on children's pas-

As the pandemic drags on, many children (and their caregivers) are running on empty. Endurance

even if it's just getting off the couch or making it through another day of online school. "I've learned from injuries and setbacks to find places to celebrate," Gleich says, "like running my first 5K after ACL reconstructive surgery, even though I'd run marathons before." At the same time, recognize that no child (or adult) can always hold it together. Give your child the space and permission to, at times, fall apart.

TEACH PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS Draw on children's interests to help them solve problems. Ryan C.T. DeLapp, a psychologist with the Montefiore Health System in New York, challenges his Legoloving clients to build a structure without talking. "We have to think of an alternative strategy, such as using a whiteboard, gesturing or writing down our instructions," he says. He uses the STEPS approach, asking kids to state the problem, think of multiple solutions, explore the pros and cons of each option, and pick a

solution and backup solution. Help children anticipate stressful situations and how they might respond, whether it's getting cut from a team or rejected from a college. "When I worked with kindergarten and first-grade students," DeLapp says, "I would use the analogy of going to the ice cream store and ask, 'What if they're out of your favorite ice cream? What are options B and C, and what are the pros of those, even if option A isn't available?' " When kids use problem-solving skills, praise them for being flexible, despite disappointment.

SET BRAVE GOALS "A huge element of resilience is being able to identify a goal for yourself, to be able to tolerate the discomfort that's creating resistance toward that goal and — once you meet that goal - being able to celebrate it," DeLapp says. Individualize kids' brave goals. If children are struggling to show their face on camera, you might ask: "Is not being on camera interfering with your academics or likely to make it harder for you to

Burr and Burton Academy Offering Every Student a World of Opportunities

Burr and Burton Academy is an independent high school that serves the public, offering outstanding and inclusive education in Manchester, VT. For more information go to Or contact Kirk Knutson, Director of Admissions at 802-549-8125 or METRO CREATIVE CONNECTION | | |


athletes have to dig deep when their reserves are low, so I asked professional ski mountaineer Caroline Gleich how she sustains her stamina. "I constantly check in with myself," she says. "When I summited Everest in 2019, I had to be super honest and ask: 'Am I thinking clearly? Is summit fever clouding my decision-making? Are my fingers OK? Do I have enough energy?' " Help children assess what will refuel their tanks. Do they need time to escape into a novel? A reminder that this won't last forever? A break from social media? A mental health day? Help setting realistic goals or asserting their needs? Some children may simply need reassurance that they're up to the challenge. "When I climbed Cho Oyu - the sixth-highest peak in the world — I got very sick with pulmonary edema and had to go back," Gleich recalls. "I told my physician I was depleted and terrified. She said, 'Caroline, we're capable of so much more than we know,' and that's become a mantra for me when I'm super drained." Acknowledge small victories,

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

sions to give them a sense of purpose, a distraction from distress and a way to connect with likeminded peers. Nick has discovered, for example, that building and painting stave off boredom during coronavirus shutdowns. He made his holiday gifts this year, and he recently designed a lemonade dispenser out of cardboard and tinfoil. When Abraham's son Kai, 10, had a hard time adjusting to online learning and yearned to spend more time with friends, she signed him up for an outdoor book club with other fourth- and fifth-grade boys who enjoy reading. "I got to know kids on my street and share something I love," Kai said. The boys like to discuss books that feature characters navigating similarly difficult situations, such as "Hatchet"and "Hoot." Kai also adores animals, so he started walking a neighbor's dog - the highlight of his day.


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 22

be visual socially when the pandemic ends?" If they feel awkward being on camera but value confidence and having positive selfworth, then keeping the camera off could be impeding their goals, DeLapp says. "That represents an opportunity for a brave goal." Make time to reflect on progress toward their brave goals, and express gratitude and excitement when they meet them.

IDENTIFY WHAT THEY CAN CONTROL "We can't completely control the restrictions placed on us to keep us safe during the pandemic, or missing out on playdates and school activities, or economic hardships of the family," but children are not helpless, Alvord says. Start a dialogue about what children think they can and can't control, she says. "Can they control their reaction if a friend says something negative? Can they make choices about what they do during their free time?" Then convey that they have options and can be proactive. Alvord suggests saying: " 'What is going

well? What is not going well? If something is not going well, what thoughts, statements or actions might be helpful?' " She recommends solving problems out loud to model for children that there is more than one way to handle something.

LABEL DIFFICULT EMOTIONS Many children have lost their go-to coping strategies during the pandemic, such as playing sports or seeing friends, says social worker Amy Morin, editor in chief of Verywell Mind, an online resource for mental health. "Saying, 'You seem frustrated,' or, 'You look sad,' can take the sting out of emotions" and help them get to the problem-solving stage, she says. Encourage children to experiment with coping strategies, such as painting, writing in a journal, deep breathing, taking a walk or calling a friend. Afterward, have them rank their mood on a scale of one to 10. "If it's a four, say, 'What can we do to get you to a six?' " Morin says. Label your own emotions, too, and tell your child how you're go-

Excuse us for “Toot-oring” our own horn, but here’s what others say: Tutoring has given our daughter the confidence to achieve greater things in school. She is now more confident and is one of the best students in her class. —Parent of Middle School Tutoring Student

I feel like I accomplished something every time I walk out of The Tutorial Center and it feels great! —Student

I am convinced that if our son did not have the opportunity he had attending The Tutorial Center, he surely would have failed geometry. —Parent of High School Tutoring Student

The Tutorial Center helped me realize that I am smart. —Student

After taking the SAT Prep Class my daughter increased her score by more than 50 points on both tests!

ing to manage them. "You don't want to burden them with adult emotions, but they're going to pick up on your distress whether you mention it or not," Morin says. "If you say, 'I'm stressed about an issue at work, so I'm going to take a walk,' then the kid knows, 'OK, mom is stressed, but she's taking care of herself, so it's going to be OK.' "

IMPART 'THE POWER OF AND' Validate that the past year has involved hardship and frustration, and help your child identify any skills or insights gained because of the pandemic. "This isn't just positive thinking. It's 'the power of and' — acknowledging that two things can be true at the same time," DeLapp says. "If we're too positive, it can become an empty platitude. The 'and' addresses our natural instinct to dichotomize an experience and call it either good or bad." The pandemic has interrupted normalcy, but it has also "stripped away certain things that we've relied on pretty heavily, and that aren't all that necessary," DeLapp

Fagell, a licensed clinical professional counselor, is the author of "Middle School Matters," a school counselor and a therapist.

Lookingforschoolorworksuccess? Wecanshowyoutheway. • GradesK-12IndividualTutoring—Allsubjects • CompleteYourHighSchoolEducation • SAT/ACTPrepClassesandTutoring • EnglishasaSecondLanguage • ComputerandTechnologySkills • WorkReadinessMathandReading Everylearner’spathisdifferent.Ourprofessional, dedicatedinstructorswillhelpyoufindyours. Telluswhatyouneedandlet’sgetstarted!Calltoday.

—Parent of SAT Class Student



Walking across the graduation stage was the proudest moment of my entire life.



—Adult Ed High School Graduate


says. For example, many teens have realized that they've been defining themselves by their academics. "Their whole schedule was geared toward getting the right resume, and covid created an opportunity to take a step back, reevaluate what's important and recover from that pace." To demonstrate that there's more to an experience than the pain we're experiencing, DeLapp will show a child a photograph, then zoom in on a specific detail. "I'll ask, 'If we only focus on this one part, does that mean the rest of it doesn't exist?' " Even as you help children to live in a more realistic place with shades of gray, encourage them to hang on to moments of joy. As Morin says: "We talk about resilience as bouncing back from hard times, but mental strength also is about living your best life when life is going well."

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

High school. Reimagined. Bard Academy at Simon’s Rock is the nation’s first two-year high school. Students pursue an intensive curriculum in 9th and 10th grades and then begin college early at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.

College. early. Bard College at Simon’s Rock is the only four-year residential college designed for thoughtful, motivated students who want to start college after the 10th or 11th grade. Our rigorous program in the liberal arts and sciences earns a 92% academic rating from the Princeton Review.

ApplyNow for Fall 2021

Learn more: | 84 Alford Road | Great Barrington, MA 01230 | | |

At Simon’s Rock, young scholars take on academic challenges in a community that shares a love of learning.


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021

Six strategies for parents struggling with work-from-home interruptions BY LAURA VANDERKAM | | |

Special To The Washington Post



Inspiring Students Pre-School through High School


Working from home has its benefits. Before the coronavirus pandemic, it was one of the most popular perks organizations could offer. Of course, this was before the pandemic sent millions of schoolage children home and disrupted other child-care arrangements. By now many parents have had Zoom calls interrupted by tech-support questions, have fielded snack requests on deadline or have tutored math learners while sitting in on a meeting. (Remember BBC Dad? We all understand him now.) Some data-driven parents have even attempted to quantify the frequency and length of the kid distractions they've faced while working from home in this pandemic. Although focus feels elusive, it need not be impossible. As we stare down another semester of virtual and hybrid schooling, now is the time to get serious about managing interruptions. There is no reason to feel guilty about this. Kids need attention, but unless they plan to pay the mortgage, you also need time for deeper work — and they'll benefit if you feel less harried. These strategies can help parents get more done now and when life gets back to normal.

Schedule the swap Trying to work while being the adult in charge of preschool-age

children is almost impossible. So the simplest answer is: Don't always be in charge. A few hours of paid child care per day can feel heavenly, but if that's not going to happen, in two-WFH-parent families, your best bet is to formalize coverage for each other. Consider an 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. workday. This can be split into two shifts: 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., with each parent alternating who gets which shift (1 p.m. to 3 p.m. is nap time for little kids, or screen time for older kids, so it can be double-booked, with the 8-3 parent providing "if need be" supervision). When each party truly covers — keeping the kids out of the other party's hair — each parent will get 25 fully focused, predictable work hours each week, and four to six probable hours with the nap swaps. While not ideal, this beats both parties being interrupted all day long. This swap could also work with a relative or a neighbor with kids who is co-quarantining with you. Even in non-covid times, formal swap schedules are a smart way for parents to get guaranteed, interruption-free "me time" on weekends and holidays — which can make for a much happier home life.

Match the right work to the right time Some work requires focus. Some does not. It's tempting, when the kids head out for three hours of

Work before the household is awake

Analyze and troubleshoot If you've got older children, understanding the nature of interruptions can help you minimize them. Take notes for a few days. If you're frequently asked for snacks, maybe they need to be made more accessible. If you're doing tech support, try teaching a troubleshooting session. Check the inventory of school supplies. Post the day's meal menu in the kitchen. You might also decide that certain bids for attention are best met. Online learning gets lonely (just as working from home gets lonely). You can lose a morning battling a child's requests to play a game of cards during her

Use signs (and share schedules) By mid-elementary school, children can understand that there are times when Mom or Dad can't be distracted. So talk through your schedule over breakfast; kids might appreciate that a call with a new client requires quiet, while a call with a longtime colleague does not. To reinforce this, put a stop sign on your office door when you can't be interrupted. This works best if you then share the times when you are fully available — perhaps coordinating your breaks with your kids' breaks and heading outside for some fresh air together. Incidentally, colleagues can be similarly trained when you're back in the office, with a sign such as noise-canceling headphones (and some schedule transparency, too).

Use a "later" list Although kids often get blamed for productivity woes, we should be honest: They aren't the only source of distraction. At home, undone chores can be equally pernicious. You sit down to ponder something important and then think, "Hey! I need to move the clothes to the dryer!" While up, you notice that there is unopened mail on the counter and … there goes 20 minutes. One solution? Keep a notebook next to you while you're doing any sort of deep work. If a thought or task pops into your brain, write it there. Then you can tackle it "later" — during a scheduled break. This goes for work distractions, too. Hunting for information you know your colleague sent in an email means going into the rabbit hole of your inbox. So don't do it until you break for coffee. Focus is hard enough as it is. You don't want to distract yourself. Vanderkam is the author of "The New Corner Office: How the Most Successful People Work from Home" and "168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think." She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and five children.


“One of the bigger pieces I’ve taken away from Hawthorne Valley is the way we do theater, plays, and presentations. We were taught not just how to stand in front of an audience but to speak well doing it and to have confidence. It’s given me a good platform for going forward.” CHRISTOPHER HERTLE ’20

330 C O U N T Y R O U T E 21 C , G H E N T, N Y 12075 H AW T H O R N E VA L L E Y S C H O O L .O R G | 518 .672.7092 X 111 C A L L T O L E A R N M O R E | A S K A B O U T T U I T I O N A S S I S TA N C E | | |

Speaking of those precious morning hours, early mornings can be a great time for getting things done. On days when you know the distractions will be thick, getting up early and knocking off the day's big must-do has benefits beyond the 60 to 90 minutes you'll actually log. I once interviewed a business leader who would work for an hour in a Waffle House before going into the office. Once he was at his desk, people would need things. He wouldn't want to convey that his employees were a distraction from more important work, so putting in that early hour let him relax the rest of the day. Similarly, if you finish something big before breakfast, you'll be more calm when somebody comes into your home office to ask where the stapler went, even though you know they borrowed it last night.

breaks from classes. Play on the first request, and she might move on to playing independently.

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

hybrid school, to clean out your inbox first. You see progress! But you can delete emails while sitting next to a first-grader who's trying to complete an online assignment. You can't write a major proposal for a new client. So plan each day's to-do list to take advantage of any focused time — which is a good strategy for non-covid times, too. If your colleagues all become chatty in midafternoon, that's the time to delete those newsletters — not that precious morning block when most of them are off in other meetings.


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 26

AP tests return to regular length this spring BY NICK ANDERSON The Washington Post

High school students will be able to take Advanced Placement tests this spring at home or in school, on multiple possible dates, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to require unprecedented improvisation in academic routines. But the exams will return to their usual length. The College Board's update on AP testing procedures, disclosed in February, seeks to bring the program at least a step toward normalcy even though basic operating conditions at schools across the country remain wildly uneven. Many classrooms are open, while others are closed or running with a mix of online and in-person teaching. Last year, AP tests were cut to 45 minutes apiece and delivered online for the first time. The curriculum they covered was truncated in response to the sudden closure of schools in March, when the public health emer-

gency slammed the nation. Typically, the tests are two to three hours long. Their formats vary, but they generally pose freeresponse and multiple-choice questions. Students who score a three or higher on the five-point scale are often able to earn college credit or bypass introductory college classes in topics from biology to world history. Last year, many students complained they could not submit test answers because of technical glitches, creating huge distress for those affected. But officials said the vast majority were able to complete the exams. Under the College Board's new plan, there will be three testing windows for each exam. The first, May 3-17, will allow students to take the tests at school with paper and pencil under traditional proctoring. The second, May 18-28, will allow testing in school or at home using computers. The third, from June 1 to June 11, is expected to be mostly at home but with some in-school sessions. The at-home testing will use sev-

eral measures to guard against cheating, officials said, including synchronous start times, plagiarism detection, computer-camera monitoring and restrictions on going back to previous questions to revise answers. Trevor Packer, a senior vice president at the College Board who oversees the AP program, said the testing

organization wants to offer students the option to challenge themselves with a full test if they desire. "There are so many different situations that flexibility needs to be a paramount virtue this year," Packer said. He said he hopes technical troubles will be minimized. "We absolutely been able to learn from last spring's experience," Packer said. WASHINGTON POST PHOTO BY MELINA MARA

Burton High School sophomore Lilian Emilife participates in an AP history exam Zoom class at her home in San Francisco on May 6, 2020.

“I didn’t really know what I was capable of... It was a lot more than I thought.” Kurn Hattin Homes transforms the lives of children and their families forever

Kurn Hattin Homes for Children in Westminister, Vermont is a charitable, year-round home and school serving children in need from around the Northeast. We serve boys and girls, ages 5-15 who are affected by tragedy, and social or economic hardship. PO Box 127 Westminster, VT 05158 (802) 721-6925 |

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021 | | |


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | |

Right now, it’s OK ‘to not be perfect’ Working and parenting in the same space calls for a little grace BY TELLY HALKIAS NENI Correspondent


Licensed social worker Jennifer Daily says when a parent experiences a “brain on stress,” it’s healthy to take step back emotionally and “call a timeout.”

Darcy Oakes still laughs and uses one word to describe what she and her three children — ages 14, 16 and 18 — first experienced when navigating the pandemic’s virtual-learning and work-fromhome challenge. “Bandwidth!” Oakes exclaimed. Oakes, who lives in Bennington, Vt., and works as an academic advisor at the Community College of Vermont, learned that limited Wi-Fi isn’t the only issue her now busy household ran

Go Boldly Foward.

Now accepting applications for Fall 2021 Coed Day School • Grades 6-12 • Dorset, VT • (802) 867-5717

into. She quickly learned that not all of her children responded to virtual schooling the same, so the emotional pull on parents can be different from one child to the other. “My ninth-grader is a hearing-aid user and really thrived because having everything captioned made all the difference in the world,” Oakes said. “The other two struggled.” Coping in the Oakes household became a shared responsibility. “All of us have shaped up our eating habits,” Oakes said. “We are now primarily plant-based, and each of my three kiddos cooks the family dinner one night a week, which helps me so much.” Fun was also at the heart of Oakes being able to take a break.

Top SAT scores in Vermont Student-centered learning Middle School acceleration Academic Support Global-minded curriculum International Baccalaureate Diploma


scan code to explore

For the Best COLLEGE MATCH Start Now

Stalled in Your College Search? Worried About Paying for College?

I Can Help

LORA K. BLOCK College Advisory Services

802-447-0776 Certified Educational Planner

“It’s really OK to not be perfect. It’s OK to embrace the idea of being ‘just good enough.’ We’re all human. COVID has created an environment of distancing that humans are just not made for. We are social beings. We want to interact. When we can’t, it creates stress throughout a family.” — JENNIFER DAILY, Licensed social worker

explain why that was important. If they absolutely need anything while I’m in a meeting, I use simple sign language that I taught them.” Danzer added that if her children had unfinished school work, she would remind them and herself that they could catch up later in the day, diffusing everyone’s anxiety by claiming it was “not a big deal.” She also stressed that taking “me time” is very important for parents. “If that’s watching a favorite show, reading a book or even having a glass of wine after the kids are in bed, doing something for

yourself is important,” Danzer said. “Also, every opportunity I get, [like] when the kids are with their father, I go for a run. Exercise releases endorphins so for me it’s a great coping mechanism during stressful times.” “As I sit here, my kids are fighting,” Danzer sighed. “I’m by all means not a perfect parent, and none of us are. I yell too, once in a while.” Telly Halkias is a national awardwinning, independent journalist. He lives and writes from his homes in Southern Vermont and coastal Maine. E-mail:, Twitter: @TellyHalkias

Life Coaching for Individuals & Healthcare Professionals Drew Totten, MS, BSc, RN, CPC Post Office Box 4416 Bennington, VT 05201 Office: (802) 855-7850 | Fax: (802) 442-2776 |

Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Imagine the Possibilities Make sure to go to every Friday to view our weekly newsletter!

8 Public Schools 2,837 learners 100% recieve free school meals 23 varsity sports Contact us today for more information: 246 South Stream Road, Bennington, VT 05201 • 802-447-7501 | | |

Hig School High Students and Families

“It’s really OK to not be perfect.” Daily said. “It’s OK to embrace the idea of being ‘just good enough.’ We’re all human. COVID has created an environment of distancing that humans are just not made for. We are social beings. We want to interact. When we can’t, it creates stress throughout a family.” Daily added that when a parent experiences a “brain on stress” it’s healthy to take a step back emotionally and “call a timeout.” “It can be a good thing when a parent finally draws that line and says, ‘We’re totally sick of this; let’s stop everything and do something fun instead,’” Daily said. That sounds great to Svandis Danzer of New York’s Hudson Valley, who likes the idea of calling for an operational pause. A single mother and special education teaching assistant, Danzer has two children, ages 5 and 10, at home in virtual classrooms. “I make sure we all have our own workspace and headphones,” Danzer said. “Before going into live meets with students, I [give] my kids a heads up to stay quiet and

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021

“My youngest and I did a virtual couch to 5K together,” Oakes said. “We’ve played board games, and board games, and board games, and everyone started a new hobby.” Clinical psychologist Andrea Lein, former leader of the John Dewey School in Great Barrington, Mass., and the mother of a twice-exceptional (2e) adult daughter, said she empathizes with Oakes’ story. “In this environment, with kids home when they typically wouldn’t be, and parents also trying to work, you have to expect things that never happened before,” Lein said. “This is where open and frequent communications become so important to ease stress.” Licensed social worker Jennifer Daily, based out of Housatonic, Mass., who previously worked with hundreds of students and parents in the Berkshires Hills School District, said that in order to cope with children in the house during the pandemic, parents must “work on their long game,” and not expect quick answers to inner serenity.


Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 30

3 ways educators can use newspapers in the classroom


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on communities across the globe. No individual, household or industry was unaffected by the pandemic, and the ripple effects of the virus may be felt for years to come. Though many effects of the pandemic have been devastating, one unforeseen and potentially positive consequence of the spread of COVID-19 was a growing recognition of the invaluable role played by local newspapers in print and online. Responses to the virus and strategies regarding how to combat it varied greatly, and local newspapers were a go-to resource for citizens who wanted to learn about rules and regulations in their towns. If the pandemic illustrated the vital role local newspapers can play, it's important that readers recognize that role won't be any less valuable when COVID-19 is in the world's rearview mirror. Educators can help the next generation of readers recognize the importance of local newspapers by taking various steps to incorporate newspapers into their lessons.

1. Employ newspapers when teaching current events Everyone was directly affected by the COVID-19 virus, making the story of the pandemic one of the most unique in modern history. Though children are often sheltered from global news stories about conflicts or economic crises, no such sheltering was possible during the pandemic, as kids were forced to learn from home and confront life with little or no access to extracurricular activities. Educators can show how local newspapers reported on the

pandemic when teaching current events, using that example as the foundation for teaching current events in the future.

2. Utilize the newspapers when teaching ESL Students who do not speak English at home or as their primary language can benefit greatly from their local newspapers. It might be easy to learn how to say certain words in English, but reading them in a newspaper gives ESL students a chance to see the words they've learned in context. And because local newspapers feature sections on everything from news to sports to entertainment, ESL students are sure to find a few articles that appeal to their existing interests.

3. Use newspapers to encourage a love of reading Just like ESL students are bound to find something that interests them in the local newspapers, their English-speaking classmates are sure to find a recap of their favorite team's most recent game or a review of the latest superhero movie or a local news story about their town to pique their interest. Students may not realize it, but they're learning when reading such stories by developing their vocabularies, fine tuning their comprehension skills and catching up on current events. The valuable role played by local newspapers was on display during the pandemic. That role won't be any less valuable in a post-pandemic world, and it's a lesson teachers can apply in their classrooms.

PARTNERS FOR GOOD Berkshire was proud to partner with Fairview Hospital and Berkshire Health Systems in the fight against COVID-19. In December, the school loaned its New Brunswick Ultra Low Temperature freezer to Fairview to help store the newly delivered Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for our local frontline healthcare workers.

LOCAL LOVE Music teacher Dr. Tasia Cheng-Chia Wu was recently named Berkshire Taconic Foundation’s 12th annual James C. Kapteyn Prize winner. The award is given for excellence in teaching, to honor its namesake’s memory by recognizing extraordinary educators in Berkshire Taconic’s region of the Berkshires and surrounding areas.

BLANKET THE BERKSHIRES Rylan Kennedy ’21 (far right) recently donated 100 blankets to Soldier On, an organization in Pittsfield that works to prevent homelessness among veterans. Kennedy spent the past year fundraising to buy blankets as part of her Black Rock Scholars outreach work. The program encourages students to be “exemplary citizens of the global community.”

Berkshire School is a co-ed, college preparatory boarding and day school for grades 9-12 and post-graduates. There are 140 classes with an average size of 12 and a student-to-faculty ratio of 4:1. Students are encouraged to learn, in the words of the School motto, “not just for school, but for life.”

Sheffield, Massachusetts 413-229-1003 | | |


Instilling a love of learning and a commitment to community … for life.

Making the Grade 2021 | Saturday, February 27, 2021



Saturday, February 27, 2021 Making the Grade 2021 | | | 32


St. Agnes Academy Faith Based, Service Minded, Academic Excellence

Why Choose St. Agnes? • In-person learning during the pandemic (since Aug. 2020) • Experienced faculty • Safe learning environment • Small class sizes

• Busing from Pittsfield and throughout Central Berkshire • Financial aid • Morning care and aftercare • Spanish classes

St. Agnes Academy • 30 Carson Avenue, Dalton, MA 01226 •

Where the uniqueness of each child is celebrated