It’s business as unusual as KO teachers gathered around their laptops in their kitchens, home offices, dining rooms, and dens for a day of virtual online professional development this Monday, March 23. Although an occasional pup or baby may have popped into the frame, KO teachers remain focused on delivering the best education for our students that fulfills our mission in these trying times.
Head of School Tom Dillow shared opening remarks and acknowledged the disorienting environment the teachers, students, and families now face but encouraged the staff to stay calm and focused on the things we can control. “Teachers, you are shifting your entire curriculum online so this is an opportunity to double down on our mission to the school. Let’s go at it! This is not just about online learning. It’s an online school. Let’s offer comfort and a sense of normalcy and continually ask ourselves, ‘What does it look like to be a great school?’”
Dillow thanked the many staffers who abbreviated their spring breaks to research the methods and practices for online learning. He stressed the importance of maintaining equity for each of our students and to remain cognizant that all of our students hail from different home environments that may present challenges. “No one is expected to be perfect. We are here to support and help one another as best we can.” He ended his talk by reflecting upon the 110 years of the school’s history and all the adversity that the generations before us confronted from the pandemic of 1918, the Great Depression, two world wars, Vietnam, the oil crisis, 9/11, and the depression in 2008-2009. Throughout all these trials, the community has prevailed. He exhorted the faculty and staff to reflect on our motto “Vincit qui se vincit” “One conquers by conquering oneself' to overcome our collective anxiety and focus on the task at hand: our students and families.
Fortunately, many KO teachers have utilized and integrated many online tools in their lessons for several years. After Dillow’s welcome, the teachers broke out into “rooms” organized by themes and hosted by a moderator or lead learner. The half-hour sessions included Flipgrid (Ryan Brodeur), Google Meet (Kathy Dunn) Zoom (Cathy Schieffelin, Heidi Hojnicki), ScreenCapture/ScreenCast (Maureen Lamb), Basics of Classroom (Natalie Lynd, Carolina Croes), Building Student Collaboration (Greg Scranton, Juan Martinez), Building Community (Will Gilyard) and Open Discussion Room (Katheleen DiSanto, Jane Repp). The mood was upbeat and optimistic as the teachers navigated new software and materials. During the sessions, the teachers posted encouraging messages in the chat function on the sidebar such as “Go faculty! Lots of bravery and innovation.” and “Infinite high five to teachers!”
This is a great experiment on building a school, and there was a great degree of faculty and staff pulling together in the same direction to adhere to the KO tenets of teaching. Head of the Middle School Ann Sciglimpaglia said, “The day was awesome, and I am so thankful for this creative team. The teachers are really excited and bouncing ideas back and forth with one another.”
Advisee groups begin at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 24 to ground all the students and to ensure that they understand the schedule for the day and where they need to be in their virtual class. Once the students and teachers discuss the flow and success of the week in front of us, the team will recalibrate to make certain everyone’s needs are met. This is our moment to dig deep and demonstrate community, courage, commitment, and solidarity. Let’s go!