Last March, when the Bridgehampton School joined other schools in shifting to remote learning as the coronavirus engulfed New York State, Principal Michael Miller sent out a video preparing students and staff alike for the disruption in their normal routine that was about to unfold.
Ryan Barker, who is in his third year as elementary school guidance counselor, said he immediately saw an opportunity to bring the school community together by making YouTube videos of the morning announcements that had previously been done over the public address system.To his surprise, when he sent an email to Mr. Miller asking permission to do the announcements, he received an almost instantaneous thumbs up and began having doubts about his ability to fulfill his commitment. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to have to do these videos every day,’” he said.
His trepidation soon turned to anticipation, thanks to the reception the school community has given his videos and the willingness of students and teachers to participate. “It’s been so much fun,” he said this week. “Every day is like a different challenge. When we went virtual, I asked everyone to send me their videos if they wanted to be involved. It spread like wildfire.”
So, now, every day that school is in session, either from his home or his office at school, Mr. Barker, with the help of a green screen, prepares a new 3-to-5-minute video he broadcasts via “WBEE virtual radio” to the school’s YouTube channel.
Each day, a different student is called upon to lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance, and Mr. Barker runs though the basic announcements like whether it is an “A” day or a “B” day and what special events are on the schedule.
There is a weather segment, which always feature different animals, from ducks to goats. In late September, Mr. Barker’s dog, Bear, was way off the mark when he predicted 40 inches of snow. His errant prediction was accompanied by a video showing children playing in a blizzard.
Then there are birthday shout-outs for students and staff members, some of whom are, um, apparently much younger than they look.
And there are teacher or class challenges. Recently, former basketball coach Carl Johnson responded to an eighth-grade pushup challenge. After he got off to a good start, the shot faded to black. Mr. Barker picked up the action “two hours later” when Mr. Johnson was still going strong as kindergarteners counted off “1 million! 1 million 1! 1 million 2!”
He has added daily themes as well. On “Mindful Monday,” he asks students to take a minute to be thankful for something in their lives. On Tick Tock Tuesday, students show off their dance moves. On Wellness Wednesday, there are tips for nutrition, exercise, and other healthy living guides. Throwback Thursdays reprise some of the more popular clips from last year like Mr. Barker’s riff on a Power Rangers show in which he superimposed oversized cutouts of teachers’ heads on the bodies of the Power Rangers. And Friday is Spirit Day, when he asks everyone to don apparel featuring the school colors, black and gold.
Mr. Barker said he is willing to keep going as long as necessary. “We are in a pandemic,” he said. “We can’t see our students and staff, so I’m going to try to do everything in my power to keep everyone connected.”