Resiliency in the Time of COVID-19

The past few weeks have seen a lot of changes at the Upper School. Due to rising COVID-19 cases, classes shifted to an online format, teachers adjusted their curriculum plans, and students adapted to the new model of remote learning. The smooth transition to online learning can be attributed to the resiliency and flexibility of everyone – students, faculty, and administration – at SVCS. Upper school faculty members Elliot Jacobs and Michelle DeLateur share their strategies for tackling online learning and ensuring that students are successful, happy, and energized even from behind the computer screen.

Elliot, an Upper School English teacher, remarked on his students’ abilities to shift to remote learning with ease and grace. Although he acknowledged that students would probably rather be in the classroom, they have still managed to accept remote learning and embrace its differences. Jacobs even sees the benefits to remote learning, as “There are things you can do remotely that you can’t always do while in class.” He described a project in his nonfiction writing class where students found an object in their homes to write about, thus incorporating their home life into the class. While that task would have been challenging to complete in-person, the home environment allows for a new level of creativity. 

Michelle, the video production teacher in the Upper School, echoes Elliot’s sentiment. She’s incorporated new ways of teaching and new projects to her class, aiming to continue their engagement and excitement about the subject in the remote format. One way that Michelle does so is through guest speakers in her online classes. In the early days of online learning, Michelle organized a narrative script writing lesson and invited teachers to read the scripts as guest actors. From there, she broke students into small groups to provide the actors with direction. These lessons gave students the ability to work and communicate with others in an online format while still exercising their creativity. 

Michelle also understands the importance of providing her students with breaks and opportunities to step away from the screen. Describing another project, in which students created stop-motion videos, she says, “They were able to step away, create something, bring it back, and show us on screen.” Michelle and Elliot agree that trust is essential to the connected learning model. She trusts her students to work independently and show up to class ready for more and Elliot does the same. He encourages paper copies of books in his classes so that students can avoid too much screen time. He has also seen changes in his class discussion and participation. “Online discussions are less intuitive. You have to make sure you’re giving kids time to think. In a classroom, you can see from the kids’ body language or face if they know the answer,” Elliot says.

Despite some of the challenges with online learning, both Elliot and Michelle are optimistic. They know that SVCS students can successfully navigate changes to their learning. Elliot says, “I’m optimistic because the kids are much more resilient and flexible than young people are given credit for. They’re really good at doing the right thing and trying their hardest.” While he and Michelle realize they may be teaching remotely again at some point this year, they are excited to get back to the classroom today.