COVID-19: On the Eve of Remote Learning

Dear GCE Community,

Routinely, we call the GCE community a family. Isolated now in our respective homes, navigating this unfamiliar landscape, we remain invested in the wellbeing of our students and families.

The Governor announced on Friday evening that all Illinois schools will remain closed until at least Tuesday, March 31. This week we will practice remote learning in the preparation of Winter Term Final Presentations. And together faculty are preparing for the possibility that we will spend a portion of Spring Term also working remotely.

In the meantime, members of our team will be in and out of the school building. Generous parents and community members have helped us put together a store of non-perishable food items and toiletries for any student in need. We can also be available to help troubleshoot technology issues and other concerns. Please contact me, Kiley, Kim, or any other faculty member you trust if you need anything.

All students should have received an email/calendar invitation from their advisor for a virtual meeting at 9:00 am tomorrow morning. If you have not received this invitation or do not know how to connect, please reply to this email now.

Inspired by a high school friend of mine, I have assembled these few nuggets to keep in mind as we enter this new mode of operation.

1. Be kind to yourself. Teachers, be kind to your students; students, be kind to your teachers. Everyone is stressed. And that’s ok.

2. GCE is better suited than a number of other institutions for remote learning. We maintain our curriculum online. A large number of course resources are also already available online. Our students have familiarity with these tools. Nevertheless, this is a shift for us, and faculty need to retool. Please be patient with them.

3. We will not recreate our classrooms online. We are working now to imagine creatively how the experiential elements of our program can be exercised over this new medium. We are a lab school, and this is a new experiment. We will learn together. In some times we will accomplish excellence; in others, we may not. Again, please be patient with one another.

4. We are all at home, but this is not a vacation. To be successful in teaching and learning. each of us must work, and we will require the support of whole households.

5. This public health situation is exactly the kind of global circumstance that animates GCE’s curriculum. Our sophomores have been studying public health for the better part of the year. It is the speculation of GCE that matters of global concern, requiring a collaborative and creative response, maybe increasingly routine. It is our responsibility and opportunity to learn together with our students at this moment.

6. Students, your teachers will miss seeing you every day. It is much more difficult to provide quality instruction when we cannot see you working. Communicate. Over-communicate. Then give us just a little time to reply. These are busy days, and we have other students too. We will do our best to communicate too. We will try to tell you why we are prioritizing some things over others, why we are assigning the work that we are. We want you to perceive that our choices are purposeful.

7. Seniors, we know you continue to angle toward graduation. Please, please, please communicate any college or aid decisions you receive. Or other kinds of opportunities too. If we are still working on applications, communication is even more important.

8. Families, the faculty are, in real time, doing very significant labor at no additional compensation and with not enough training. I am exceedingly grateful to our small team, working long hours, caring for our students, supporting one another, and delivering still a substantial, dynamic learning experience. Teachers – most of us – consider ourselves learners first. It is likely the reason we are teachers. We want students at all levels to learn and, more, to develop a lifelong disposition toward learning. What I have seen in the past days is nothing short of jaw-dropping—teachers coming together, creating communities across the globe, trying to help each other learn so we can help our students learn. Please support our faculty.

9. Anxiety is difficult to manage in “normal” circumstances, but it is compounded massively by a climate of anxiety and fear around a crisis. Schools are feeling tremendous anxiety. Teachers are feeling it. Students are feeling it. Families are feeling it. Make your own strategies for anxiety mitigation. Take a walk. Text a friend. Play a video game. Bake a treat. Whatever would be in any way soothing, do it. This is not normal; let’s not force ourselves to pretend it is.

10. Social distancing can feel very isolating. Even those who recharge by being alone are feeling isolated. Reach out. Talk to friends. If you have older neighbors or colleagues or family members, they may be particularly afraid right now. Reach out. Make plans to talk to and be with small groups of people, and keep your plans. Help build community. That’s what will sustain us. Community.

With great affection for this community,

Cabell King
Head of School

Cabell King

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