Sometimes the past year has felt like folks everywhere were just trying to survive, as the pandemic put a halt to so many activities we used to take for granted. At the same time, as Plato noted, “necessity is the mother of invention,” and the constraints of the pandemic have resulted in useful innovations.
Here at James River Day School, teachers faced with the leap into virtual teaching last spring quickly learned new ways of using technology for planning and presentation that continue to serve them well. This year, as the school adopted new protocols to allow students and teachers to meet face-to-face, teachers again adapted -- how could social distancing and other COVID restrictions be used to advantage in the classroom? PE teachers designed activities and games with distancing in mind. Music teachers innovated ways to bring music alive while keeping children safe, focusing on rhythm, percussion, and reading notation. When a new trimester-long writing course devoted to research writing and public speaking was unable to go forward with in-person guest speakers, the teacher shifted these learning experiences online via Zoom. Teachers throughout the school discovered the joy of spending more time outdoors, and the benefits of frequent hand-washing, as head colds diminished across the board.
The pressures placed on school-age children by the pandemic gave the school an incentive to hire a counselor and a nurse to provide additional care to support students’ social, emotional, and physical health. In addition, attendance at parent meetings sky-rocketed this year, which has served to deepen the supportive relationship between the school and families.
While some changes happened because of the pandemic, other important improvements happened despite the pandemic. When the school auditor recommended a Business Office training manual, the new Business Manager created one. Processes for applying for financial aid, for paying tuition, and for enrolling online have all been streamlined and improved. Human resource protocols and policies have been clarified and standardized. The long-held attitude of the school toward continuous improvement in systems has continued to move forward without delays or excuses.
“May you live in interesting times” is perhaps a blessing, perhaps a curse, but we are most certainly living in interesting times. James River Day School, as usual, has continued to work to provide the best possible education for the children it serves, demonstrating its commitment to excellence as well as its agility and resilience.