Virtual School 2.0 Off to a Great Start

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Virtual School 2.0 Off to a Great Start

Although it was a short week, we couldn’t be more excited about the positive and spontaneous feedback from parents and students about our new and improved Virtual School program. Here’s a glimpse into a few of the changes.

Upon hearing the news of the directive to cease on-campus learning, there were, understandably, concerns among members of our community about learning from home. After all, we’ve been fortunate enough to have more than half of our school year (100 days!) on campus, and a summer break, since the last time. 

However, we kicked off this new session with fantastic feedback from students and parents alike. The transformation included clarifying the expectations for all stakeholders, actively promoting wellness, and creating a strong foundational framework for all involved.

Setting Expectations

Jennifer Mendes, High School Principal, set clear expectations of the students in their first Zoom together. Students received additional support from their advisors, who provided actionable tips and information on making the most of the experience. “This was all about setting students up for success in the days and weeks to come,” says Ms. Mendes. “We had a 98% attendance rate - a testament to how seriously our students’ commitment is to make the best of the situation.”

Students in Ms. Ede’s AP Computer Science Principles class can find assignments, lesson plans, and links to virtual classes in our learning management tool, PowerSchool Learning.

"I am really grateful that we have a planned schedule, so I am not late for classes like last year. I am feeling a bit better about Virtual School, and I am confident with my learning now. The first two blocks went well, and I understand what I am doing," shares a Grade 10 student. 

Confidently debating gun rights, Grade 9 student, Jason, states his case to his peers and online judges.

Students pivoted successfully in Grade 9 English when the debates they had been preparing for since right after winter break suddenly shifted to online presentations. They adapted very well, despite having to quickly rethink how to be compelling and engage an audience online. Everyone who’s ever held a Zoom presentation can surely relate.

Actively Promoting Wellness

This time around, our Virtual School curriculum has a much more significant focus on wellness. And the schedules in each division are designed to promote the physical and social-emotional wellbeing of our students. 

“From our experience and survey feedback from last year, we realized that more opportunities for student wellness during Virtual School would benefit our students,” says David Chadwell, Associate Head of School for Teaching and Learning. 

In the High School and Middle School schedules, for example, Wednesdays are set aside for wellness and consolidation. First thing in the morning, students meet online for assembly, a fun and interactive way to start the day. After assembly, students attend online advisory lessons to where they connect with classmates and their advisory teachers

During their advisory lesson, students in Jocelyn Wei’s Grade 6 advisory enjoyed sharing things that make them happy and that contribute to their well-being during Virtual School. Although a seemingly simple exercise, the consistent scheduling of lessons such as these can have a profound effect on student wellbeing. 

In their advisory class, Grade 6 students eagerly share the things that make them happy while giving a glimpse into their “at-home-selves.” 

Middle School Principal, Molly Burger, is using surveys to collect feedback from students. To the question “What else would you want your teachers to know about you in Virtual School?” students showed everything from compassion to honesty, with answers like ”I want them to know that this is going to be difficult for them as well and I am grateful that they are doing everything they can to teach us.” And ”I just want them to know that I want to come back to school and that I'm trying hard to put effort into my grades when it comes to Virtual School.”

Creating Structure

The new Virtual School program ensures that there is a clear framework for every student to follow each day. A framework that also involves regular check-ins with their teacher throughout the day. Not only does it make it easier for the student, but naturally, it also makes it easier for any adult supporting them at home. 

Early Childcare teacher, Tina Ratliff, reads aloud to students via a laptop.

“It was essential that each family be able to customize the work according to the degree of support they can provide at home. Hence, we provide elementary students with learning experiences that fall into one of three categories: required, recommended, or enrichment,” shares Dr. Daniel Keller, Elementary School Principal. 

Using an erasable whiteboard, Grade 2 teacher Lisa Jacobs does math with her students.

Dr. Keller explains that the feedback from elementary parents, students, and teachers clearly indicated that Virtual School had to be distinctly different from physical school for our elementary students. In designing the curriculum many things were taken into consideration to strike the right balance. Synchronous versus asynchronous learning, on-screen versus off-screen learning, and more.

A Strong Community Builds Virtual School Success

Our experience tells us that just as in physical school, the success of a student in Virtual School relies in part on the collaboration between parents and the school. SSIS is fortunate to have the strong backing and support of our community. 

Elementary School parents collect activity packets, which ensure that students have the tools they need to engage in off-screen learning when required.

Many parents emailed and texted the school after the first day to say how happy they were with the new and improved Virtual School, and how noticeable the changes are. And we too are thrilled with how the improvements have been received.

Together is better. We will continue to support our parents through Virtual School, whether it means ensuring that students have what they need at home, providing clear communication about the tools available, or providing guidelines for virtual school success.

Regardless of the platform, SSIS is committed to providing students with exceptional learning experiences.

Author: Tanya Olander
Communications Officer


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