Lonely at the top

Principal says he misses kids during virtual learning

By Lauren Gothard and Lindsey Sin

Over the past year, we’ve learned about the experiences of students, parents and teachers as they navigate remote learning and attempt to strike the precarious balance between family life and work, all under one roof.

For James Tucker, many of his responsibilities as principal of Bret Harte Elementary School haven’t been all that different during the pandemic from inperson learning. But he misses seeing the students.

“I think the most challenging thing is not seeing the kids every day,” Tucker says. “I got into education to be around students all the time, and because I’m not in the role of teacher, that is the most challenging part for me. I go in and help with testing and small-group instruction, just so I can spend time with the kids.”

Bret Harte’s Principal James Tucker says that he has been helping with testing and small-group instruction. He adds, “I think the most challenging thing is not seeing the kids every day.” Photo/Joan Cusick

Day to day, Tucker spends his time ensuring that teachers, students and families have what they need for success during remote learning. That includes providing virtual instructional leadership, training and virtual planning sessions with staff and teachers.

For Bret Harte students and families, he helps with a wide range of issues, such as Internet access, support for the students’ social and emotional needs, and support for a successful learning environment at home. He regularly pops into the Zoom classrooms to observe firsthand how instruction is going. He also delivers school materials to students’ homes when necessary.

“I feel like the managerial aspect of running a school hasn’t changed much, but my focus has been on making sure my teachers, my students and families have the tools and knowledge to do this successfully,” Tucker said.

Add to this list the duties of school principal that would normally happen in the physical space: participating in School Site Council, writing the school plan, and being an active member of the PTA.

A sign on Bret Harte’s office door suggests calling the principal for help. Photo/Joan Cusick

When Bret Harte students and teachers moved online for distance learning last March, most assumed it would be for a few weeks. As weeks turned into months, the stress of continuous remote learning and its effects on students and families became a concern.

But Tucker is quick to identify some positive aspects. Teachers, administrators, students and families have shown incredible resilience in a year that was fraught and scary at times. Being able to connect digitally has allowed families to engage in school events and meetings that they would otherwise miss.

“The fact that families get to see what the kids are doing day in and day out is a bright spot,” Tucker said.

He recognizes that parents are intimately involved in the learning process now.

“Parents know what is going on in classrooms because they’re monitoring their students, and that makes parents an integral part of their education, even more so than before.”

Without question, this last year has created numerous challenges for our Bret Harte families and students. But the commitment and dedication of the school’s staff and teachers, starting with Principal Tucker, has never faltered.

If you have questions about open enrollment at Bret Harte Elementary for the 2021-22 school year, contact the office at 916 395-5190. To schedule a virtual tour, contact Principal Tucker at 916 914-9988.

The Bret Harte PTA will meet virtually at 6 p.m. on Monday, March 8. The PTA will also host a virtual iReady instruction for currently enrolled families at 6 p.m. on Thursday, March 18.



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