Holderness Faculty: Virtually Amazing!

Greg Kwasnik
Over the last several weeks, we’ve all had to adapt to the new realities of social distancing, work from home, and distance learning. Our amazing faculty are no exception; in a matter of days, they’ve managed to completely rethink the way they teach to meet the moment.
In early April, faculty met for several virtual in-service days to prepare themselves for the new reality of distance learning. During the virtual sessions, teachers learned a host of new skills - everything from how to set up a Zoom classroom to how to enrich their lessons with videos, Flipgrids, VoiceThreads, and Google Slideshows. They also spent time reflecting about the very act of teaching. During one session, Dean of Faculty Kristen Fischer gave faculty a simple writing prompt: Write something you’ve learned about teaching.
“I thought I could gather some of our collective wisdom and experience as teachers in a document, asking everyone to ‘write something.’  I read them the passage and gave them 5-6 minutes to write,” Kristen says. “I suggested that the writing might serve as a meditation in that moment, and that the document might be a place to go over the next several difficult days or weeks to find inspiration or wisdom from our colleagues.”
The responses Kristen received were so thoughtful and inspiring, we wanted to share them with you. Here are a few highlights:
-   “Be vulnerable, allow the ‘I don’t know’, I’m uncertain of the outcome, to come into your teaching, allow the vulnerability to access creativity.”  

-   “I have learned that in the face of fear and uncertainty can lie the greatest opportunity for creativity and innovation.” 
-   “I have learned that teaching is just learning something again with another person.” 
-   “I have learned about teaching this “new way” is not necessarily difficult, but I am consistently thinking that others (younger colleagues) are better, more creative, farther ahead of where I am at the present time.  I am thankful that I have a community of peers who will help me when I get stuck. It will probably be hard to embarrass myself -- I mean I did dance at the pep-rally --so the bar is fairly high!”
-   “Above all, to be a good teacher, one has to be nimble.”
-   “Teaching involves relationship-building first.  Without first building relationships with and among students, no effective teaching can take place, so get to know your students and allow them to get to know each other.”
-   “I keep thinking about the ‘moments’ from Out Back where that glimmer happened. Where our group got it. There were so many epically hard little moments. Sock changes when you are tired and hungry. Redoing a better deadman. Getting out of a cold sleeping bag. But there was the end moment- the peak, the success, and the learning. That moment was felt on a cellular level. This is what I learned about teaching. You don’t tell them. You lead them to it. You give them all the tiny steps. And they discover.”
-   “I have learned about the importance of human interaction in the classroom and the challenges of removing it from the equation.” 
-   “I have learned that teaching is still part of the learning process. When teaching, we keep learning about our topics and we learn from the students at the same time. You cannot be a teacher if you think you know everything.” 
-   “As someone brand new to high school teaching I have already learned that this can be unpredictable and that being flexible, keeping an open mind, and constantly learning is key. The best teachers I had were those that were able to connect with students and form meaningful relationships, and that remains my goal even if the classroom is virtual.”
-   “I have learned to appreciate technology in a way that I thought I never would. I am apprehensive, but excited to establish a new classroom with my students. I think this experience will ultimately make me a more well-rounded educator.” 

Having read through these teacher reflections, we’re reminded that Holderness isn’t defined by its classrooms, dorms, and playing fields; its identity comes from the people who inhabit those spaces. These reflections also remind us that the true value of a Holderness education depends, in large part, on the strength of our faculty. And in a world that’s rapidly changing beneath our feet, it’s comforting to find stability in that strength, insight, and resourcefulness - true Holderness qualities that will never change. 


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