School has changed completely over the past month as classrooms have shut across the city and learning has moved online. New York City public schools will now be closed through the end of the school year at least, with no guarantee that they’ll open back up in the fall.
Through all that uncertainty, one Brooklyn elementary school principal has found a way to comfort and reassure her students. “Even when times are tough, we are all still together, and we are all still sending love to you,” Amy Rodriguez, principal at P.S. 282 in Park Slope said in a YouTube video from her “Rodriguez Reads” series. “So be kind, do your best and have fun. And take care of your grown-ups, okay?”
Rodriguez began making YouTube videos for the students at P.S. 282 over two weeks ago. In her “Rodriguez Reads” series she has been reading picture books and offering encouraging words for students multiple times per week.
She came up with the idea as a way to stay connected to her students and maintain a sense of normalcy. “I’m a mother myself, and I know when I read to the kids I’m able to connect with them in a way that’s different than when we’re just going about our normal lives,” principal Rodriguez said. “And I’m a naturally silly person so I thought, what better way to entertain myself and the children?”
Principal Rodriguez has read a variety of books in her first few videos. “We started with some favorite stories and then my own kids would recommend stories for me to read,” principal Rodriguez said. “The school psychologist recommended the one I read last night,” she said, referring to a video released April 14 where she read a book about coping with change in the time of coronavirus.
Rodriguez believes every child needs to be able to tune into their emotions and know that feelings are not forever, and neither is the coronavirus pandemic. “I think it’s important to take it day by day, and celebrate the small victories, and to not get caught in the echo chamber of isolation,” she said. “Even though it’s incredibly hard to not be around the kids right now and give them hugs and tell them how amazing they are, what I can do is turn on the camera and act silly and read them a book I enjoy. What we can do is look out the window and feel the sunshine on our faces. If there’s any way that I can model that for the kids, that’s what’s valuable, and that’s the contribution I can have.”
The elementary school principal is in her first year in the job, but has already made her way into the hearts of students and parents. “The way she talks about things, she makes you feel like everything’s going to be ok. She’s there if you need her,” said Tina Gupta, a mom who has a first-grader and a third-grader at P.S. 282.
According to Gupta, Rodriguez normally greets students outside the school in the mornings, and pops into their classrooms regularly. “It’s a face they’re used to seeing every day,” she said. Gupta is working her HR job from home full-time, and her husband is working to keep his restaurant and bar in Ditmas Park open for takeout and delivery. There’s a lot going on for their family at the moment, Gupta said, but she loves to make time to watch “Rodriguez Reads” in the evenings with her two kids.
“She’ll always say something really directly to the children. She’s not speaking to the adults, she’s speaking to the children,” she said. “It really is a nice way for them to be reminded of a routine, someone they respect very much.”