“As students and faculty, we have to be co-creators of what this future looks like,” says Assistant Head of School Chelle Wabrek.
Over the last two months, Lovett has completely redesigned education to fit this new, virtual environment. As the school administration addresses the immediate changes in our ways of learning, they are also studying the long-term effects of this new reality and how they can adjust curriculum going forward.
In an interview via Google Meets, Ms. Wabrek admits that despite Lovett’s best efforts, the transition to virtual learning has not been perfect. Part of this is simply due to the nature of a digital platform that cannot live up to the in-person experiences to which we are so acclimated.
“When you physically cross the threshold of a classroom, it triggers something in your brain that is missing in this,” Ms. Wabrek says. Without the physical distinction between class time and schoolwork, the different aspects of education are blending together. Forced to be more independent than ever before, many students have been feeling anxious and overwhelmed by their virtual workload.
But students haven’t been the only ones struggling throughout this process. Almost overnight, teachers had to reinvent the curriculum and learn how to use digital tools that Lovett had been talking about introducing for years. It has also been more difficult than ever for teachers to communicate with their students and with one another.
As a teacher of a ninth-grade English class herself, Ms. Wabrek appreciates the importance of the everyday interactions that give teachers insight into what else is going around in the school. Whether it's through conversations in the hallways with fellow teachers or in classrooms with students, she is able to get an understanding of what tests and assignments her students have on any given day, and she can adjust her own class’s schedule to reflect that. Now, she says, “Natural moments like that for teachers don’t exist except by intentional design.”
Should virtual learning continue into the fall, the administration hopes to create some sort of platform to help teachers better interact. However, should in-person instruction resume, it will likely incorporate many of the educational advancements that this online learning has brought about.
One interesting effect of the switch to virtual class is that teachers have recorded an increase in tutorial attendance. Rather than spending tutorial time playing sports or hanging out with friends as they might have done a couple of months ago, students have been reaching out to their teachers to have more one-on-one conversations to discuss material from class. Ms. Wabrek says that teachers have really been “able to dive in with individual students in ways that they didn’t do before.”
When it does come time to return to campus, Ms. Wabrek says that the administration might even consider creating virtual tutorial opportunities for students to meet with their teachers at more convenient times to fit into their schedules.
She also sees opportunities in the many different programs that Lovett teachers have been experimenting with, such as Padlet and Flipgrid. Ms. Wabrek has personally seen how helpful these platforms have been for some of her own students, who were quieter during discussions in a classroom setting but are more comfortable with individual contributions to a class-wide compilation. This also brings some variation and room for creativity in the school day that students can look through after class.
“What that is allowing me to do is really capture learning in different ways,” she says. “It has provided me with these documentations of learning.”
Having so many digital records of their classes, teachers are better able to reflect upon these last few weeks and consider how these different programs can be used in the fall, whether or not we return to campus.
“As we look towards the future,” Ms. Wabrek says, “there are going to be seasons of [virtual learning] that we are going to have to fade in and out of given the medical landscape.”
The way in which we learn may continue to change, but what will not change is the dedication of students and faculty as we all work together to recreate the Lovett experience.