To tech or not to tech

Posted By on Mar 26, 2020 |

At the end of the day, it wasn’t even a question. In the face of a situation that none of us had ever anticipated, Oak Lane has gotten technical. We intentionally keep technology on the down-low at school, believing that face-to-face time is of primary importance to our kiddos. Additionally, hands-on experience has always been considered to be the backbone of early childhood development.

I know there are lots of apps designed to educate kids. Oak Lane is full of bright, smart families and teachers and of course we want our kiddos to become computer-literate. We just don’t find much value in using tablets and computers while our friends are in the room with us at school; we learn more important stuff from being together than we ever can from an app or iPad.

However, we’re not allowed in the room, or the school, or the campus or even the playground for at least another few weeks. So, like the rest of the world, we are using technology to connect with each other. We’re not providing online instruction like other schools; that makes no sense for our little ones. Parents will always and forever be a child’s first teachers, and we are providing ideas for parents to educate their kiddos at home.

But, we have a wonderful tradition at Oak Lane called Morning Meeting. Everyone (except our infant class) gathers in community at 9am, to have a moment of silence and reflection as we start our day together. This is our interpretation of a Quaker practice called Meeting for Worship. For our little ones at Oak Lane, it is time for our three oldest classes to share a moment of greeting friends and teachers from other classes, practice silence and self-calming, and give meaning to simply being together.

So, we are still meeting at 9am, through Google Hangouts. We even have a shared Google sheet so that families can sign up to read a story. We’ve had up to twenty families and teachers at our virtual Morning Meeting! Here’s how it works.

Each child leads us in taking a deep breath. Then we read a story, ask a reflection question about the story, stretch up high and ‘bring down the silence’. We then take turns on camera answering the question and end by singing our Morning Meeting song* together. Sure, there has been a learning curve of how to mute & un-mute microphones. But, we are able to be together in real time, hearing each other’s voices and seeing each other’s faces every morning, just as usual. What a blessing.

Another blessing has been to experience our extended family. Older brothers and sisters, many of whom are Oak Lane alum, are participating in one of their favorite Oak Lane traditions. Parents are experiencing a part of their child’s day that isn’t usually available to them. We are all learning so much about each other, inviting our friends & teachers into our homes to share a daily experience — even when our hair isn’t brushed, the dog is barking in the background, we’re still eating breakfast or wearing polka-dot pajamas. It doesn’t get much more real than this. This is so much more than community — this is family.

Building on an old Oak Lane tradition, with the help of new technology, we are able to stay strong. Our goal is to stay connected with each other in spirit during a time when we have been advised to stay physically apart. It is our little way of supporting each other through a strange and confusing time. Even so, we can’t wait to get back to school.

*As we leave this friendly place,
Love gives light to every face;
May the kindness which we learn
Light our hearts till we return.