Empty Classroom

Who We Are and Why We're Here

Friday, March 13 was the last day I saw my students in person. For some of them, it was the last day I saw them at all.

Friday the 13th.

It felt as unlucky as it’s purported to be.

It was a chaotic day in my 6th grade classroom. Frantically planning for the possibility of a closure and hoping that our time apart would be short. Knowing that, despite our wishes and best intentions, it would be a long time before I saw my students again.

The day was a whirlwind. Technically, their final projects for our unit on Heredity were due, but instead of celebrating their hard work through presentations and discussions, we zoomed (pun intended) through digital resources.

Our students had limited access to technology through the year, so we had to do a full overview. How do you get into our Google Classroom? What was your username? (How will we do this?) In case you don’t have internet or a device at home --and many of them didn’t-- here’s a packet I assembled 30 minutes before class, when the closure was confirmed, to give you work for the next three weeks.

A real whirlwind. A painful frenzy. Hardly time to say goodbye.

Hoping, all the time, that they’d be safe.

The first weeks of school closure and shelter-in-place were purposeful; there was no time to pause. Days disappeared as I called every family in my homeroom, created digital work for students, went to four consecutive Zoom meeting in a day, made video lessons, sang in silly videos to cheer them up, created bonus challenges, revised projects and lessons, wrote feedback, reached out to each student, and even “Zoomed” with them in small groups and individually with their families.

Some families weren’t comfortable sharing at first, but eventually I heard about the struggles many were facing -- families afraid for their loved ones, families who had lost their jobs and feared losing their homes, families who needed to go to their essential jobs but had no way to supervise their children or to keep themselves healthy. How could I support them?

We had some resources, as a school and as a district. We gave out meals, gave out devices and hotspots, did outreach, continued educating and supporting as best we could. But it never felt like it was enough. We could not do enough. I could not do enough.

No matter what I offered, I knew, and knew deeply, that it wasn’t enough.

It haunted me.

Months later, with the pandemic still forcing us into difficult choices, it still haunts me. How are my students? Not just my 6th grade scientists and historians from last year. How are my former students-- the ones who sang with me as first graders and are now going into 5th grade? How are all the students I’ve taught? Some are still in elementary school, some are in college by now. How are they navigating this time? How are their families?

How can I help them thrive?

As I thought about the needs of my students, reflected on the 2019-2020 school year, and imagined the year to come, the idea for Schoolhouse by the Sea was born.

There are so many ways I hope to use this platform. Here are the highlights of my vision for it:

At Schoolhouse by the Sea, we’re here to support children. You are so strong. I want to help you be stronger, through resources that make you curious, resources that bring you joy, resources that let you discover new talents and skills, resources that help you wonder and explore. Let’s grow together.

We are here to support educators in their work this year, whether it’s homeschooling, classroom teaching, or distance learning. Teaching is an art and many of us are working in a new medium. Let’s master this new art together.

We are here to support and curate materials for families, who, like so many of us, may not know where to turn as a new school year starts. You are doing difficult work. Overwhelming work. Beautiful work. The most important work. Let’s make it a little bit easier, together.

It’s a strange time. It’s a stressful time. I hope that, together, we can find things within this time to celebrate and help us grow.


Welcome to Schoolhouse by the Sea. Together, we are strong.

Best wishes,
Ms. Sylvia