As our entire world has had to move quickly and adapt to the emergent realities of a global pandemic, Thacher has had to learn what it means to be a school without students, at least without students on campus. “There was a great effort by everyone to stand up an online school in a week and a half,” said Director of Library Services and Educational Technology Renee Hawkins. “It was a Herculean task.”
The guiding principle for the project has been to build upon our existing assets by prioritizing connection and community. Before teachers began redesigning their classes for the online learning environment, Director of Studies Tracy Miller said, “Staying connected with students via online synchronous classes, individual digital meetings, facilitated message boards or other fun, low-stakes ways of keeping learning personal and relational will allow for more positive learning experiences.” The faculty has taken the challenge to heart and are engaging with students from all over the world regularly.
“Although I miss their presence every day, I'm so grateful for the opportunity to connect one-on-one with students through Zoom. In a way that doesn't always happen at boarding schools, they've been able to share a little bit of their home away from Thacher with us, and I can only imagine our relationships will grow stronger because of it,” said language teacher Iona Popa CdeP 2010. (The video shows Ms. Popa connecting with a student from Hong Kong.)
Moving teaching and learning online requires technological tools that Thacher hasn’t previously needed. After spending years at a school in Baltimore that often closed for blizzards, Renee Hawkins came to Thacher with a wealth of knowledge about online learning. Though she helped lead the charge, Ms. Hawkins emphasized the contributions of the entire administration and faculty: “I have never been so proud of an organization and its people as I am of this group. It was a huge lift for the faculty—from synchronous face-to-face, they adapted so quickly and so well to asynchronous online.”
In the coming days and weeks, we’ll be reporting more on the ways our School is responding to the coronavirus pandemic.