I hope that all of you are doing well and are healthy and safe wherever you are. As we come to the end of our second week of virtual classes, I wanted to say a few words about how that is going. Without question, the heart of what makes a Storm King School Education exceptional is the relationship that develops between our students and their teachers.
While, of course, the virtual format removes the “in-person” element of interacting, our faculty members report that both they and their students are connecting and continuing to develop that student-teacher relationship which is so important to what we do. Here is some feedback from our teachers about what is working well:
Mrs. Brown (Psychology and Stagecraft):
“Psychology is going well. There are many ways to teach this subject virtually and I was already using many media forms before we started distance learning. Kahoot has a teaching forum that I plan to try with my class in the coming days. It runs like an interactive PowerPoint presentation. The students can log on with their phones or computers and they will answer questions as we go along with each lesson.
My Stagecraft class has been much more challenging because this is, by nature, such a hands-on class. We are working on diving deeper into design elements and how to plan for a performance. We will also begin working on stage management as well as dramaturgical work.”
Mrs. Jacobson (Dance):
“I am very impressed by my students in Advisory and Dance. The attendance for both my classes and Advisory has been great. It is great to check in and chat with my group each day, just like we did while still on campus. My students enjoy sharing how their classes are going and what is going on at home.
The very first day of online classes, my dance class was surprised that we were actually going to get up, stretch, and dance. We did, and now they are used to doing this every day. While we have had some technical issues, I am finding ways around this and making sure my students are still participating.”
Dr. Feffer (Scienc
Motivated students are doing very well and the educational value is nearly equivalent aside from not being able to do hands-on lab experiments. In Physics and Chemistry, there are many online virtual labs that we can use. In some ways, virtual class is similar to a class in person; some kids take the lead, while others prefer to listen. In a live class, one can pull the quiet kids aside and work with them individually. Online, it's a bit harder to do that, but I’m working on solutions for each student.”
Mr. Carruthers (Art, Global History):
In general, the students have been doing remarkably well. They are (mostly) on time, willing to work, and enthusiastic in our class discussions. Obviously, this generation is very comfortable with an online setting, so technically, it's not a big deal for them.
he classroom dynamic is very different. The whole class is present, but it's like dealing with each of them individually because they are on their own screen.”
Mrs. Hecht (ESL):
On a positive note, my students are engaged and using breakout rooms and other methods, such as WeChat, to speak with each other. My Advisory has been wonderful; sharing music, ideas, and helping each other through these trying times. We celebrated two birthdays this week online. I hold my ESL class at 7:00 am New York time, so that my class will be able to attend each day.
Our pacing of the class has changed. What may have taken two days to complete is now taking three or four. That being said, individual attention and focus has thrived between the teacher and the students.”
Along with the positive feedback I’ve received from teachers, they have also reported some challenges. For example, virtual classes make test administration and other types of assessments more difficult. Working through different time zones is also a challenge. Some technical issues have also arisen periodically, ranging from poor internet connectivity, students dropping off line, distractions at home, and others. In the last several days, some stories have also emerged from different sources questioning the security of the Zoom platform. Please be assured that we have added the necessary steps to increase security while using the platform and will continue to monitor this.
As we iron out the technical glitches, there is always the need for students to actively participate in class, and this is even truer in a virtual format. Parents can help us by making sure their son or daughter has a suitable work area, by monitoring the student’s focus during class as best they can, and checking regularly to make sure students are keeping up with their schoolwork.
The work our teachers have done to move our academic program online so quickly is tremendous. The learning curve has been steep for all of us, and our hope is not only to complete the school year, but to learn how we can best leverage the virtual approach in the future. I especially appreciate the way our students have adapted and how most have done their best to accept this new reality we all find ourselves in. I am sure that the willingness and enthusiasm of everyone involved will ultimately ensure it becomes a success for our students and our school.
Until my next communication, please continue all of your good work and make every effort to stay healthy and keep your spirits high. As always, please feel free to share your questions, concerns, and any ideas you may have on how we can make the SKS Virtual School even better.