How teaching & learning will work in our transformed school environment
Over the summer, I thought a lot about the many strands of teaching and learning that we’ve all been working on over the last several years, including the importance of departmental collaboration, intensive summer curriculum redesign and planning, teaching reflections in portfolios, curriculum maps, class visitations, course evaluations, mentoring and feedback, introducing our ninth graders to the academic culture of the school, and finally, the importance of finding the sweet spot in our pedagogy between direct instruction and independent inquiry. I also thought a lot about this particular moment in time and what it means to be teaching during a global pandemic and within the context of this historical moment in America when we are faced, yet again, by the racial injustices of our past and present.
Although these many strands may seem to be separate, they are, in fact, all tied together in our teaching and learning goals to educate every student in an equitable way by providing each student what they need to succeed in our classrooms. While our teaching and learning objectives have always been centered around the student experience in our classrooms and the care and attention we give to each of our students, now more than ever, we need to be focused on equity and, as Jason Reynolds says “teaching humanity.” After this summer of racial reckoning and reflection and action, our mission as educators is even more urgent.
We, as teachers, have the opportunity to address the historic and systemic injustices that have plagued America for centuries. We have the opportunity to focus on cultivating an anti-racist mindset within our classrooms. We have the opportunity to support and affirm our marginalized and underrepresented students. We have the opportunity to create a diverse and culturally responsive curriculum. We can do all of this by considering both what we teach and how we teach it and by being highly attuned to the particular and complex variables that our students are contending with this fall. Our classrooms are important spaces to teach and enact social justice, to acknowledge and grapple with inequities, to embrace complexity and resist oversimplification. We can work together, both within and across departments to refine our teaching and learning this year in relevant and powerful ways.
We know that the best way to achieve this kind of inclusive intellectual class culture is to get to know our students as individuals, to take the time to understand, work with, and care for each student, to resist assumptions and build relationships with everyone in our classes. This is true for returning students and particularly true for our new students. This is true for our students on campus and particularly true for our students who are remote at the beginning of the year. We need to notice who is most vulnerable and embrace the humanity of all who are in the room. We can do this by establishing clear expectations and offering clear instruction and by seeing, supporting, affirming, and challenging each student. Jason Reynolds articulates our mission beautifully, simply, and profoundly: “I am a human being, let me extend humanity to the human being in front of me.”
-Dean of Teaching & Learning Elizabeth Roach
- How will the 2020-2021 academic year be structured?
- What will the daily academic schedule look like?
- How will the academic schedule work for students studying off campus?
- What are the expectations for attendance when class meets in the middle of the night where I am?
- What if I have to miss class for travel to campus or a move-in day?
- When will I receive my class schedule?
- When will I be able to ask my teachers questions outside of class, or access opportunities for extra help?
- What technology will I need for this school year?
- What if I am having trouble with technology while learning remotely or on campus?
- How will I get my books, readers, or academic planner?
- How will classrooms be arranged in light of physical distancing protocols?
- How will standardized (SAT/ACT) testing work this fall?