The list of educational challenges from this past year is long – too much screen time, distractions at home, and an ever-present concern over the health and well-being of our community, families, and friends.
Yet as challenging as remote learning has been, I am an optimist. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a “silver lining” as a consoling or hopeful prospect. There have been many silver linings to remote learning -- our libraries have seen an increase in circulation of e-book and audiobooks, we have added to our digital resource holdings to include streaming video products and additional academic databases, and we are experiencing an even higher level of teacher-librarian collaboration.
I reached out to several Viewpoint colleagues to collect their “Remote Learning Silver Linings.”
Middle and Upper School Social Studies teacher Cynthia Ambriz shared that “one real benefit I’ve found is utilizing breakout rooms for private or one-on-one conversations. While I love and miss the randomness of not knowing who might pop into a classroom during Conference Period or I-block, the convenience of being able to just pull one person to a private space to chat has helped both with academic struggles and building personal relationships.”
Similarly, Lower School librarian Michele Shumow says Zoom’s gallery view allows her to greet each child by name. Instead of Lower School students leaving the library all at once, many students now linger to gather personal book recommendations.
Unique Programming and Cross-Divisional Opportunities
Middle and Upper School Choral Director Carrie Dietsch appreciates that she has been given increased opportunities to bring Grades 6-12 students together. In I-Block, our Middle and Upper School community hour, her department scheduled special programs with Broadway actors and music directors in New York City. This included a memorable session with emerging Broadway performer and alumna, Satori Folkes-Stone ’14. Music teachers have offered cross-divisional activities like songwriting workshops and student showcases.
Similarly, the library team hosted four virtual author visits in May, and three more in the fall. Middle and Upper School students welcomed two authors assigned in Viewpoint’s English curriculum, and grades 4-8 met two popular Newberry Award winners. Zoom provided the opportunity to “visit” with writers and illustrators in their art studios and personal writing spaces, enhancing the author experience.
Social and Emotional Benefits
While there has been a heightened concern about mental health, Remote Learning has invigorated us to focus on wellness in new and creative ways. Thanks to Viewpoint’s counseling and wellness team, there have been increased offerings for students and families, more frequent conversations around mental health at faculty meetings, and newly formed support networks.
Remote Learning has created more personal and family time. For instance, multiple studies have shown that teens need more sleep. Viewpoint’s remote learning schedule is able to include later start times, and without their commutes, students have a better chance to get the rest they need.
Belinda Eleftheriades writes that teaching online has “allowed my students to see my human side. They see my kids pop in occasionally and realize that I’m mothering while teaching. It has allowed a more authentic connection and understanding that makes learning so much more organic.”
On a professional level, teachers report enhanced team teaching, and they benefit from the ongoing support from Viewpoint’s IT team, Tech Integration Specialists, and Remote Learning Fellows.
Breaking the Script
In The Power of Moments, Chip and Dan Heath write that “just by breaking routines, we can create more peaks.” This is true for Belinda Eletheriades, who writes that “the major silver lining, not only for me, but I imagine for a lot of people, is that we had to reformat our curriculum and think about what is most essential,” adding “which is something we should be doing every year anyway.”
It is evident that our resilient colleagues have found ways to turn “pits into peaks.” As we enter 2021, we might feel exhausted yet cautiously optimistic.
On a recent Zoom, Viewpoint parent and physician Dr. William Go thankfully stated that “the end is in sight.” With that in mind, how will we hold the silver linings of remote learning in our pockets as we navigate our path back to full-time, in-person school?