With Mission in Mind⁠—October 5, 2020

Our Blended Family

In contrast or perhaps even similar to last week’s With Mission in Mind reflection about one family’s experience of being Remote by Choice, this week, just one full month into school, I have a lens on blended learning. At its core, blended learning is the combination of in-person instruction and online learning. And executing it in excellence requires tremendous creativity and effort.

Everett (E): “This is tricky.”

Preschool Teacher Casey Marx (CM): “I know, E, it can be uncomfortable learning new things.”

E: “It makes me tired.”

CM: “That happens to me too. Keep doing the best you can, and one day it just happens. Bodies and brains need lots of practice.”

Everett continued to try while he chatted with CM. And he was getting so close. Close to what, you ask? Opening a sandwich bag.

CM: “Oh boy, you’re getting there, I can tell!”

He opens the bag.

E: “I did it!” he says, beaming.

CM: “You sure did, and do you know why?”

E: “I know, I know, because I can do hard things.”

This is an account of a recent exchange between Preschool teacher Casey Marx and Everett, one of her students⁠—happening in real time while some students were in-person and others were learning Remote by Choice. This scenario causes me to think of the sage advice of our mental health team who regularly remind us—staff and parents⁠—to “focus on putting on our own oxygen mask first before helping dependents with theirs.” If we make this a practice, we all have a much better chance of “surviving” some of the painful parts of the pandemic that are less than ideal—remote learning, in-person learning during a pandemic, and their love child⁠—the hybrid or blended learning model.

And even though putting on one’s own oxygen mask first feels like a selfish act, it really is an act of love. This is what I see school personnel—who many themselves are part-parent and part-colleague—doing on a daily basis when they don their mask to be present for all of our students. I hear stories from our Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Sue Smeaton who, not only sought to admit all of our families to FXW, but also stops extra early at the OSP campus to assist with Preschool drop-off before trekking over to the administrative offices at OES where her office is located and she still has to wear a mask all day. I listen to colleagues who daily put themselves at risk to care for and inspire a love of learning in our youngest pupils. They share highlights from the day that will make even the grinchiest of people’s hearts melt and then grow three times in size like the student who experienced success with what appears a simple task. When we believe children can do it, they will do it.  It is our role to be there with encouraging words and messages of “We can do hard things.”

This is our beautiful and busy FXW Blended Family which, in spite of a very present pandemic and racial turmoil, is bursting with life because of the brave people greeting us at the front offices, working in our classrooms, and the admin who toil long hours to keep our school safe and open (notice the order of open after safe). They are brimming to the surface with a combination of feel-good dopamine because they love teaching and seeing our students thrive, and also a healthy dose of fear.

I may not know or be certain of a lot at this moment in time, but there are a few things that I know for sure. Love is the greatest asset of humankind, and we are massively lacking in it, which is why we are still in the state we are in as a nation and as a world. Blended Learning is not easy…for anyone; however, it’s the little things…and the littlest of people that help ground us in love and light.

It is challenging for parents, teachers, and students alike, but with our 30-year anniversary just a faint distance behind us, I am proud of where we are after just one month of school. In other sections of With Mission in Mind you may choose to read about two alums whose post FXW educational experiences have a grand total of 449 years and still, those institutions⁠—Choate Rosemary Hall, Northwestern University, and St. Ignatius⁠—are figuring it out just like us. Ixchel Hernandez ’19, featured in the “Hidden Figures” section or here, just flew back to Choate in Connecticut this past Thursday, but other boarding schools remain closed while others opened as pre-pandemic planned.

I also encourage you to check out the November 5, 2018 throwback With Mission in Mind here or in the “Religious/Important Observances” section of the email featuring alum Joel Alvarez-Rinconeño ’12, the eldest of OSP Office Manager Monica Alvarez and third grade teacher Rafael Riconeño’s three children. Joel, Ixchel, and now it appears that Everett are mere snapshots of how the FXW Preschool foundation laid the groundwork for resilience and independence that has served all of our FXW children well. 


Kendall Mallette, Director of Mission Integration