Dear Esteemed Colleagues,
We’ve created guidelines to help you plan for the fall while we all wait for more concrete answers about school reopening. There’s still a lot of uncertainty, but one thing is for sure: We can almost guarantee that school will look and feel very different. Students will likely not eat lunch together or use lockers, and chances are very good that they will have completely forgotten any social skills they worked so hard to develop. Below are guidelines for the fall to help you imagine and plan for a fertile and safe learning environment, no matter the utterly uncharted or mostly normal circumstances.
- Build community and encourage collaboration, but establish a code word to remind students not to touch each other. Teachers are encouraged to make this fun and educational by using curriculum-based words like “mitochondria,” “Xin Dynasty,” or “paraprosdokian.”
- Meet students where they are. Remember, they will be emerging from nine months of Call of Duty: Warzone immersion. It may take them time to reacclimate to the pre-quarantine norms of social interaction such as holding in farts, wearing pants, and shouting “Hooah!” as a response to anything and everything except when their answer is “no.”
- Clearly establish firm and consistent classroom expectations. This will help students feel safe and grounded. Having said that, be prepared for everything to fall apart at a moment’s notice if anyone in our community (or if any personal Peloton® instructors serving anyone in our community) contracts the virus. Please immediately inform admin if you hear even a completely unfounded rumor about a Peloton® instructor serving someone in our community having lost his or her sense of smell and/or taste.
- Create consistent routines that can — should the need arise — seamlessly transition from in-person to distance learning to some currently unknown version of education that no one has yet conceived of but that you will definitely need to have conceived of and — should the need arise — bring to fully-realized fruition, after devoting your hard-earned summer vacation to this vital, heroic, and perhaps completely futile task.
- Make space for transparent conversations, but don’t speak on the school’s behalf about any CDC recommendation or make any promises about accommodations the school will provide without the school’s legal counsel present. (You all remember Linda, who’s been on retainer since school closure. Text her, and she can be in your classroom within five minutes. She is an incredible and expensive resource that we urge you to tap when necessary.)
- Anxiety and fear can look like disrespect and defiance. You may feel tempted to punish students as you would under normal circumstances for disruptive classroom behaviors like chewing gum, side-talking, or playing Fortnite in the middle of your lecture on General Relativity. However, teens are fragile now, and we should resist taking essential comforts away from them during this difficult time. Students should be permitted, for example, to Infinite Dab in celebration of their new highest kill record, regardless of how severely this derails your teaching.
- We’ve been lucky to have the help of a tireless and compassionate counselor on campus this year to help support students during this difficult time. Unfortunately, Dr. Karen has been institutionalized for what appears to be a nervous breakdown. I’ve been told that someone who has lots of important things to do and nowhere near enough time to do them has been put in charge of finding a qualified replacement post haste.
Thank you! You’ve been exceptionally flexible and have modeled unflagging resilience for our students. We know a lot of you haven’t changed out of your sweatpants in months and that at least one of you has taught your cats sign language (great videos, Ms. Saad!), but please remember that you’ve changed your students’ lives this year.
As you know, salaries are frozen, and budget cuts mean we’ll have to do without our usual weekly visits from Tim the Barista in the teacher’s lounge next year, but we plan to show our appreciation for your hard work at the Squad Happy Hour this Friday (look for the room link and password in your inbox), where we will drunkenly confess our acute existential dread about the future of education.
Your Head of School