The Year of COVID-19. What will we say about this time in our lives next year, in five years, when our students are parents (a scary thought - as a father of a senior, I know!)? We have no idea how these uncertain times will progress. But I am very, very proud of our entire Upper School community for making this work for the first month. At a recent Upper School faculty meeting, I took a few moments to share my thoughts about these tumultuous times; my words are below.
I wanted to take a second and share my gratitude with all of you. We are going on eight months living in a COVID-19 world, and speaking for myself, I have never worked harder and felt more overwhelmed, and that includes when I prepared for my oral exams in graduate school. My hair was probably the same length back then - it was the 80s. 1980s.
We have asked so much of all of you, and with a minimal amount of grumbling (a lot of it from me), we have started the school year. Has it been perfect, heck no, but my heavens, when I walk around the halls and watch our classes and listen to our students and sit quietly covering for our remote teachers, what I hear is music to my ears: our students are learning, and engaging, and debating, and complaining about all the typical teenager things. They are laughing and yelling and joyful. It looks and feels like school again. A crazy, masked, socially-distanced, plexiglass lunch school, but more normal than not.
I realize this visceral recognition I am sharing of what we do is a much greater challenge for our remote teachers and students, but I can tell you, and I have been in a lot of classrooms, virtual community members are making a huge contribution to the life of the school.
The elephant in the room is that this … is … hard. It is exhausting and trying and we are in uncharted territory for all of us. There is little time to breathe during the school day. And I understand why people shy (or even run) away from me, because if I ask you to do one more additional duty your head will explode. I get it. I feel the exact same way, but somehow our heads don’t explode, and we make it work.
But here is the good news - it is not forever. I truly believe that and have faith (possibly blind) that we will come through to the other side of this pandemic and in some strange way be better. If not better, at least we will have learned a lot about ourselves and discovered an array of teaching approaches and tools that would likely have remained untapped.
So I want to thank you for showing up and not giving up.
I thank you for sacrificing a significant number of your precious summer days to learn a new approach to teaching.
I thank you for figuring out how to teach people in your room, on your Zoom, and on your Zoom in China - a 12-hour time difference.
Almost all of our in-school teachers have volunteered to cover for our remote colleagues’ classes. This is huge. And let me be frank here, we would not be open as an in-person school without your willingness to do this.
I thank you for your flexibility in allowing us to make changes on the fly and for your subsequent “go with the flow” ethos.
I thank you for finding ways to accomplish what used to be the most simple tasks - giving assessments, assigning group projects, one-on-one student check-ins, group discussions, the list goes on and on. You have worked through all these unexpected difficulties with courage and humor.
Thank you for stepping up and helping a colleague who was ready to pack it in.
Thank you for being your best selves.
I sit here in awe, on Zoom, of all you and all that you have accomplished, and for overcoming all the unforeseen obstacles past, present and undoubtedly coming in our future.
You are incredible.
You have kept the heartbeat of Wardlaw+Hartridge strong.
I believe these words are true for all of us. So my lasting memory of school during COVID-19 will be of the dedication and perseverance of our entire W+H family: students, families, teachers and staff. Ram resilience runs strong.