Humans are not isolationists. Regardless of your political views on isolationism – foreign policy asserting that a nations’ best interests are best served by keeping the affairs of other countries at a distance – the majority of people do not fare well isolated and alone. We are social creatures. Sure, we have our share of hermits and loners, or free climbers, working alone and focussed, but in general, humans thrive on relationships and daily interactions.
As you may imagine, I have been thinking a lot about relationships in the past week as Kent School moved quickly, and mightily, to distance learning this past week, after being on spring break, when the markets went south and COVID-19 ramped up. We came together for two days to plan and then launched a wonderful, fun, connectedness that inspires and moves me. I am so proud of the faculty, and those who support teaching and learning at Kent School, for an abrupt shift which by all accounts, at the end of Week One, was hugely successful.
It is not the teaching and learning, though, that I value the most. I am in the process of calling each Kent School family. I have only finished one and a half grades. Although I am leaving many voice messages, the parents I am reaching are talking at length. Education has always been about relationships. Students, especially boys, work hardest for teachers they like. Today, in this surreal world of contagion and uncertainty, relationships matter more than anything else. I am also holding a virtual coffee and conversation with parents this week to help them feel connected to School and, just as importantly, to each other.
These past two weeks have made me value the independence of the independent schools in Maryland and in the country, even more than I did a month ago. I have been on numerous video conferences, calls, and webinars learning lessons from Seattle schools, who are 10 days ahead of us with distance learning. I have heard legal and financial advice, as well as great operational tips. Peter Baily, Executive Director of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, is working tirelessly to keep Heads informed and connected. I feel so fortunate not to be hanging out on a limb, isolated.
The best two pieces of advice I heard over the past week are as follows:
Less is more with distance learning – families are anxious and stressed with siblings vying for computer time and parental attention. Those parents who can are trying to telework while homeschooling, and those who cannot work from home are shuttling children to grandparents or sitters, thus school work is hard to accomplish in some families.
Secondly, more important than the student learning, we must continue to strengthen relationships with parents, take care of our exhausted teachers, and take care of ourselves.
Humans need social contact with immediate and extended family, friends and co-workers. We must find continued ways to connect with technology in the weeks to come. Our happiness depends on it.