Dear Whitfield Community,
Four weeks into the eLearning experience students and faculty continue to express genuine appreciation for increased opportunities to connect, process, discuss and debate together. Feedback regarding the evolution of our teaching model to now include “live” class time has been overwhelmingly positive.
I’ve been collecting feedback about the eLearning platform through student surveys and individual student and parent meetings. Grade level teams and departments have also reported out on weekly student progress and curricular developments. Through shared stories of challenge and achievement the prevailing message is that collaborative efforts maximize the advancement of learning.
Shared investigation and collaboration regarding effective digital tools, among faculty, has been incredible to witness. Faculty continue to work tirelessly to deliver daily lessons using digital tools such as Camtasia, OneNote, Edpuzzle, Kahoot, Voicethread and Screencastify, and teachers have risen to the challenge of designing and/or modifying opportunities for students to participate in more project-based learning that involves deeper levels of thinking as well as personal engagement. This work not only builds digital skills that are transferable to life beyond the classroom but supports our mission to build perspective. Examples of current project-based work are the investigative journalism podcasts in 11th grade English, the construction of an interactive website in 10th grade History and videos of global food dish preparation in world languages.
In this new eLearning environment, students are growing in unexpected ways that will profoundly impact their lives moving forward. Students are working to hone executive functions and daily life skills like planning and prioritizing, self-regulation and self-evaluation. Yet, the area of most noticeable growth is student-initiated communication. Students are reaching out to peers, teachers and student support personnel through email, google hangouts and Zoom (and of course Facetime and gaming devices). They are leaning into productive struggle and in turn seeking out resources when appropriate. Additionally, students are finding ways to encourage one another to cope with the new normal and providing words of wisdom that include, “we are all in this together,” “remember to breathe,” and “take one thing/day at a time.”
Productive growth stems from constructive communication among all constituencies. That is what we aspire to model for our students and build upon for the purpose of continued intentional evolution. While students and families continue to live in this unique situation it is important to remember that the student support team as well as the division directors are available—and happy—to provide support and collaborate in a solution-focused manner. Weekly highlights from my vantage point include the opportunity to provide student feedback about their preparation and delivery of MacBeth debates and student sessions to discuss time management, prioritizing and drafting emails to teachers that include clarifying questions.
Many days I am reminded of the proverbial phrase “it takes a village.” While our current backdrop involves a virtual village, I continue to believe in the power of the village and know that when we are able to come together again in the physical sense that our village will be stronger.
Mead Ploszay, MS, LPC
Director or Teaching & Learning