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During this extraordinary time when New York City’s educators are working closely with students and families from the confines of their homes, we will be publishing a series of posts describing their experiences in their own words. We are now #DOEconnected!

Follow our hashtag, #DOEconnected, join the conversation, and connect online with your neighbors across the City. Share stories of how you, your child, a teacher, or a school community member has become your hero. Remember, not all heroes wear capes.


Natasha Bracey-Ferguson, principal of P.S. 277 in the Bronx.

Principal Bracey-Ferguson During a Google Meet

“The school community has worked tirelessly to ensure that we remain connected during this time.”

The P.S. 277 community in Mott Haven has been tenacious through the challenges of this school year—constantly facing unprecedented unknowns, all the while continuing to plan and reimage our children’s future. Principal Natasha Bracey-Ferguson’s vision for her school is “to continue to encourage everyone and remain positive and flexible to push past this moment. I am very supportive, and remind the staff members to stay dedicated because we are the advocates for our children.”

The students at P.S. 277 have been managing remote learning particularly well over the last few weeks, as “they have adapted to the remote learning challenge and transitioned into this mode of learning quicker than most adults.” However, in light of recent events and the added social unrest, connecting with students in a remote learning setting has been more complex than usual.

“All of our students are experiencing different emotions—some are confused and anxious, while others are upset, angry, or discouraged. Trying to process those feelings, in addition to COVID-19, has been overwhelming, stressful, and very difficult to unpack.”

“Remote learning has led to interdependence—and as a result, the staff members, scholars, and families are forming stronger bonds and deeper relationships. It has been a very touching and gratifying experience.”

Principal Bracey-Ferguson quotes Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum on the importance of addressing the social-emotional needs of her students while publicly engaging her school community in a conversation about race—”children who have been silenced often enough learn not to talk about race publicly.” And as the principal of P.S. 277, she wanted to provide a platform for her community to discuss freely their thoughts and feelings around race and social injustice.

“Before we engaged students in discussion, I opened a safe platform for staff members to express their feelings, followed by facilitation of experiences with smaller teams. These experiences allowed them to share their thoughts and personal experiences.” This was the important initial step for their conversation, as “it provided staff members the opportunity to acknowledge how they may be or are feeling before supporting our students.”

While acknowledging and validating the feelings of educators, Principal Bracey-Ferguson also suggested that educators should allow children to speak and lead the discussion if possible, because “sometimes, we as educators say too much, and this can overload and/or frighten children.”

“All of our students are experiencing different emotions—some are confused and anxious, while others are upset, angry, or discouraged. Trying to process those feelings, in addition to COVID-19, has been overwhelming, stressful, and very difficult to unpack.”

Fridays at P.S. 277 are “Family Fridays,” where students and family members are invited to participate as a community. Principal Bracey-Ferguson and her staff members had a support meeting to “specifically address how we would engage the students in our Family Friday that is focused on recent events.”

“We decided to use Read Alouds and Reader’s Theater for our lower grades,” reading books such as “We’re Different, We’re the Same,” by Bobbi Jane Kates; “Happy in Our Skin,” by Fran Manushkin; “Stormingo!,” by John Rousselle; and “Skin Like Mine,” by Latashia M. Perry to learn about diversity, uniqueness, empathy, and acceptance. For the upper grade students, guidance counselors co-facilitated listening circles for students “to discuss topics about policing, protesting, and the latest victims, as well as quotes to engage in deep discussions.”

“Social-emotional learning is very important and a priority to our school, and having the ability to continue remotely has been a great joy for us as a community.” The P.S. 227 community continues to support each other in various ways—highlighting a support staff member each week, posting encouraging messages on ClassDojo, and continuing wellness checks through calls and Google Meet. “Many of our scholars respond to the messages, and it keeps the conversation going!”

Principal Natasha Bracey-Ferguson praises the P.S. 227 staff members and community throughout the transition to remote learning through a supportive environment; and the creation of an inclusive school community for their students. “Remote learning has led to interdependence—and as a result, the staff members, scholars, and families are forming stronger bonds and deeper relationships. It has been a very touching and gratifying experience.”

Natasha Bracey-Ferguson is emblematic of how New York City’s educators are adapting to these unprecedented times on behalf of our students and families. We thank our staff members for helping all of us stay #DOEconnected as we stand #TogetherforJustice.


Visit our #TogetherforJustice webpage to find the resources Principal Bracey-Ferguson and her staff members used for their conversations with children about racism, injustice, mental health, and self-care.

In addition, NYC Well is here to support all of our families, students, and employees—call 1-888-NYC-WELL (1-888-692-9355), text “WELL” to 65173, or start a Live Chat on the NYC Well website.

The Morning Bell

Official blog for the NYC Department of Education, home of over 1.1 million students across 1,800+ schools

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NYC Department of Education, 2019