Professionalism, Thoughtfulness, and Grit: How Heathwood's Teachers Have Risen to the Challenge of Remote Learning

Friday, May 1, 2020

I could not be prouder of or more grateful for the professionalism, thoughtfulness, and grit of my faculty colleagues.

The challenges associated with the Covid-19 pandemic have been unprecedented, unpredictable, and unbelievable.  However, amongst the many setbacks and failures connected with this coronavirus moment, the success of our remote learning experience has been a true bright spot.

I have always been interested in systems and groups of people.  That, coupled with my love of basketball, is what attracted me to coaching.  I am intrigued by both the synergy of a team and by an individual recognizing their potential.

The closure of our campus, and the subsequent transition to remote learning, has been an unbelievable moment.  In the closing weeks of February, the surreal aspect of the challenges that awaited us became clearer.  Winterim trips to Italy and Germany were canceled, and we began to contemplate the possibility of emptying the campus of students.  

I wondered how our faculty, amidst the many challenges associated with regular and traditional teaching, could work with their grade teams, departments, and divisions to construct a remote learn experience.  Additionally, they needed to prepare for remote learning in one week and they needed to do it as they considered the impact the virus and a school closure would have on their own family.  

Our faculty has risen to the challenge, and under the strong and nimble leadership of George Scouten, Suzanne Nagy, and Stephanie Scanlon, and with the able and tireless support of John Caballero and his team in the Technology Department, we have excelled. It has not been without some bumps and I appreciate the diligent, thoughtful and objective feedback received from our parents in the survey responses. 

The teachers at Heathwood have been particularly adept at balancing asynchronous (teacher and student interacting through email and web modules, but not in real time) assignments with synchronous classes (live real-time interaction).  Teachers have extended deadlines, adjusted workloads (both increases and decreases), and altered assignments to meet students and families where they are.  

One of our parents, when asked, "Is there a particular teacher or staff member who has made this transition easier for you or your child?” responded, “Honestly, they all have been wonderful. Easily accessible and understanding. I am constantly amazed at how organized they all are and the creativity of their lessons-TED talks, virtual art shows, recorded lessons, etc." Another parent responded to that same question with, “From Ms. Nagy to the advisors and the teachers - all have made such a tremendous effort! I am impressed with the quick response on any issues from the teachers.”

I was certainly nervous for our school’s transition to remote learning, but when a parent was asked, "What has been the most pleasant surprise about remote learning for you or your child?" she responded, “I love the schedule and think you are all doing it right. So impressed and proud of how you put this in place. He gets up every morning, showers and 'goes to school'. …I see Heathwood moving very seamlessly into this new normal for teaching and finding ways to do so while engaging children and keeping them learning. I like the ideas you have for social media engagement. Fun ways they can complete 'challenges' or post learning will continue to build the relationships and sustain connection and community…”

My three boys (10th, 7th and 5th grade) have had a relatively seamless transition.  I have been amazed at the attentiveness of the teachers, excited to see my sons flex their executive functioning muscles that they have developed over their seven years at Heathwood, and impressed by the personalized attention of the teachers.  As a teacher for the first 20 years of my educational career, I know well what the job entails. Our faculty have moved mountains in a very short time.

Heathwood’s faculty have developed a program that meets our student and families where they are, and the administrators in each division deftly responded to suggestions and concerns from our families.  This is a once-in-a-generation moment, and I am prouder than usual to be leading this fine school.

At Heathwood, we lead with our heart, and when that is combined with the wisdom of our talented and experienced educators and their passion for reaching and teaching kids, good stuff happens.  

I am lucky to be the coach of this fine team, and I am genuinely humbled by the amazing effort of my colleagues at Heathwood.