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Re-imagining the Classroom

Re-imagining the Classroom

In our pre-Covid world, those of us who had been teaching for awhile could plan out a week’s lessons pretty easily. We knew what worked and what didn’t, and which digital tools were the best to do the job. Not that what we did was brainless, or “winging it,” but we had a workflow in which we had grown accustomed. In a way, many teachers moved to distance learning thinking they could continue to work in this manner, simply replicating what the did in the classroom via Zoom. They figured, “I can ride this out with not much change until this whole thing is over.” But it isn’t over, and unfortunately, it isn’t likely to be over anytime soon.

Michael Nachbar, the Executive Director of Global Online Academy, recently stated, “The prospect that online learning will become a forever part of your schools should shape the way we talk about it now. Lean into it.”

The losses we have felt during the pandemic have been great, but what we have gained has helped so many of us to be excited for the future.

Since last March, teachers at FIS have been leaning into it, embracing the change and doing the hard work to make our school a model of what a truly innovative learning space can look like. But it hasn’t been easy. There have been no examples to guide us. No teacher has had to deal with teaching both face-to-face and virtually at the same time – ever.

The pandemic has forced us to look at the traditional school model with a completely new lens. What are the most essential parts of the curriculum? How should content be delivered? What do our students need to know and be able to do? What tech tools are required to both deliver and participate in the curriculum? And how do we give students opportunities to learn and interact in multiple ways?

The answers to these questions aren’t always clear cut, but six months into this new venture, we have developed a well thought out plan for teaching and learning that encompases a mix of synchronous (face to face in real time) and asynchronous (independent, on their own) possibilities so that we may continue teaching our students whatever the circumstances. This fall we also began to strengthen our Continuous Learning Plan (CLP). We want students to feel comfortable staying home to get well without risking falling behind. 

Coming up with innovative ways to teach is what makes our profession so exciting, but at times like this, it can also make it so exhausting. Even if we have taught a particular course for 10 years, the planning and delivery of content during a lesson is completely different. Our successes so far don’t mean that we will no longer have moments of trial and error. Iteration is a critical piece of becoming better at anything. It is just that we must think through all aspects of teaching our lessons, trying things out, adjusting, redesigning – and then trying again. The design cycle is now more important than ever and the more we can concentrate on design and pedagogy the better.

The losses we have felt during the pandemic have been great, but what we have gained has helped so many of us to be excited for the future. Our students are empowered to be more independent, more creative with their time, and more empathetic and flexible learners.

Kathleen Ralf
Blended and Online Learning Coord.
Upper School Humanities Teacher

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