Letter to WNY

I began my journey to help wny’s studeNts and families with the letter below, released to the WNY community during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. It describes the inspiration for creating my School House 7 television segment and blog. 

April 12, 2020

Dear WNY Community,

Please share this letter with as many parents in WNY as possible.

My name is Jay Hall. I am a local educator and a WNYer for life.

I hope this letter finds everyone in good health and high spirits, especially friends and families who are currently fighting the Covid-19 battle in WNY and throughout our great country. The Hall family has been praying for you.

I’ve had to remake myself as an educator. Over the past month I’ve learned a great deal about getting back to basics. Let me explain…

When Covid-19 hit WNY and school was canceled many districts in WNY were ready to roll. They created online curriculum and sent devices home with their students to continue their learning.

In the Buffalo City School District things were different. There are obvious and countless challenges present for such a large, ethnically diverse, economically challenged school district such as BPS. All major school districts in all major American cities are dealing with the same challenges.

Here in Buffalo, superintendent Dr. Cash and members of his cabinet are providing daily guidance to the district. Much of the behind the scenes work on things such as food service and curriculum development is still occurring. For example, one of my direct reports in the district, an associate superintendent, is coordinating a project with our team in which we are meeting weekly and building an amazing set of culturally and linguistically relevant curricula based on a publication edited by none other than W.B. Dubois. We can’t wait to share it with our students!

Because of our current work, we know, as a result of strong leadership and teamwork, when school is back in session, we will once again be ready to catalyze engaging learning pursuits in BPS. We will do it as team. And, we will do it with the curriculum we develop in the days ahead.

That brings me to the most crucial element in all of this, i.e. my most important colleagues and friends, classroom teachers. Due to the quality of programming at our local higher ed institutions we have a great deal of EXTREMELY TALENTED educators in WNY. If your child is engaged in an online learning program, then you will witness firsthand these extremely talented educators in action! In fact, as I am writing this, my daughter’s awesome teacher is playing his guitar, leading his classroom through a selection of poetry, and asking his students to share their own original writing pieces. She’s engaged and learning with her class.

Our daughter is doing great. But here is the sad part. Many other students in WNY are not.

Many students are now unable to easily connect with their amazing teachers because they lack the basic tech equipment and internet service to do so. As it once was very similar to their peers in WNY, their new curricula and educational environments have been drastically impacted and changed significantly for the worse. In this new world, the achievement gap is quickly widening every day. Let me better illustrate this for you. Typing an essay for a class project on a large screen all-in-one HP or Apple computer with tons of memory is a quite different experience than working on a cracked screen cell phone with a four-inch display. Reading and writing in mom’s office is quite different from reading and writing in a home that is heated by the kitchen stove. I can fill up this entire page with countless examples of the current impact of Covid-19 on various student populations across our community.

Please know in your WNY, American heart that EVERYONE, from far right libertarians to far left liberals, and all those in between, must realize that the children in America’s classrooms today, especially those in our urban centers who make up a vast proportion of our school populations, will be guiding our lives in the near future, every single one of them. Therefore, we ALL must have a sense of urgency to educate our nation’s students. This benefits everyone.

We ALL must join together as a community, as we always do here in WNY when faced with challenges, to bring the same sense of urgency and innovation we bring to the challenge of re-opening the Buffalo Bills season to the re-opening of schools and education for our children, especially for those here in the WNY community who need our help the most.

In my attempt to get back to basics and to better reach our students in Buffalo and throughout WNY, and to assist all the WNY parent teachers in need out there, I reached out to my favorite news channel and was asked to take part in, and accepted creative responsibility for, a volunteer project with WKBW Channel 7.

They are filming a new segment on AM Buffalo called School House 7. I earnestly agreed to create a mini-series for the show called “Two Minutes of Teaching with Mr. Hall.” It first aired on 13 April. Since the first segment, I have connected with hundreds of parents from WNY and as far way as California, New Orleans and Florida.

Because literacy is the backbone of every subject, my two-minute lessons provide parents with basic, easy to implement, creative, engaging, and highly effective literacy strategies for use at home. From what I’m hearing so far, they’re working!

Through this blog, I will be able to communicate with parents and students throughout our district and region regarding the strategies I teach on AM Buffalo.

I am hoping that you will be able to share this information with as many people as possible within our WNY community via your social media pages and websites. I was inspired to initiate this project by a small group of parents with whom I have been video conferencing. They have used these strategies in the past few weeks and enjoyed success at home. Small wins, but successes. And, as one parent, my friend Kevin, informed, the strategies are helping. As he wrote to me via text, “Ryan is actually starting to like reading, especially boring stuff. Believe that! Chunking text and annotating for gist, those two basic things you showed me. Man, they really work. Wish I knew about it earlier when this all started. Thanks bro!”

My hope is that these strategies will spread and more and more comments like Kevin’s will come pouring in! This is not about us. This is about our children and their growth.

In closing, I am a proud BPS graduate whose ELA teacher saved his life. As you know, I passionately dedicate my life to my students and for many I am known as “dad” or “uncle.” My students love me, and I love them in return. Therefore, I thank you in advance for helping me help our community and schools and I sincerely thank every WNYer out there on the front lines.

As always, I am here if you need me. Please contact me at any time. Good luck parent-teachers!

All my best,

Jay Hall
WNYer Forever