Upper School Leaders on Virtual Learning

What is daily life like for ASW upper school leaders during virtual school? 

Michael Sheehan (Upper School Principal)

As strange and surreal as this whole experience is, I am doing everything I can to keep to a normal schedule, workflow, and routine, the same as I had before teaching and learning went online and silence descended upon the campus. The amount of sleep, food intake, exercise, hours at school, scheduled meetings, emails received and sent, and family routines such as eating dinner together during the school week -- all of these have been maintained. In fact, with the exception of sleep, everything has increased! I know the chief lamentation of many, especially early on in this crisis, has been the battle to socially distance from the refrigerator and pantry. And the celebration of many, a silver lining perhaps, has been productivity.

For students and faculty, travel time to school and class has been significantly reduced, if not eliminated entirely, and that represents a huge savings. For me, with far fewer opportunities to interact with faculty, staff, students, and parents at school, I am finding that I have time to accomplish more in a day than I had pre-pandemic. What this amounts to is a few hundred extra meters in the pool, a few more emails and meetings, a walk on the track during my lunch or break times, and more time in the kitchen helping to prepare meals. However, the reduction in “real” human interactions in the school and in my personal life is, quite frankly, depressing, which is something I know that we are all coping with. If things were “normal” (whatever that means right now), I would be on spring break in the US with my family, seeing my mom and visiting colleges and universities in Massachusetts where my grade 11 son Benjamin is thinking he might want to go to school.

I would be finalizing plans for numerous end-of-year events, such as awards assemblies and graduation. I would be meeting with faculty and staff to devise plans for what the beginning of the 20-21 school year looks like and solidifying bookings for our class trips. With the exception of the college tour, I’m still working on those aforementioned things, but approaching them much differently. Without knowing what will happen next with our school closure or what will happen with regard to the spread of the virus and the need for everyone around the world to quarantine and socially distance, I am working with my colleagues to develop multiple sets of plans. Graduation, for example, is one event which at present has four different scenarios. Of course, at some point very soon we will have to make a decision on one of those versions, but we want to wait as long as possible in case something changes. For now, heartened by the great work of the faculty and students and the support of this outstanding school, I keep plugging away, doing my best to maintain the routines and hope that we can return to a state of normalcy sooner than later.

Laura Berntson (High School Vice-Principal)

I feel very thankful that ASW had a bit of warning to prepare to do school virtually, and I think this has had a huge impact on our effectiveness. Of course we have had to adjust as time goes on, and I am so proud of our community for how everyone has stepped up during this crisis. Personally, I at first continued to work from my office at school. However, when I started to develop a cold I decided to try and work from home to see how it would be (while symptoms were not consistent with COVID 19, I did not want to compromise anyone else's immune system by spreading my common cold). To my surprise, I found working from home to be incredibly productive, which is probably good considering the work has doubled (supporting and planning for school virtually and in real life under uncertain timelines).

Unfortunately I also have found that one of the reasons I am so productive is that I sit at my workspace for hours and hours on end without much activity. I am working on this, trying to replicate how far I would normally walk to visit classrooms, to attend meetings, or even go to the cafeteria (much further walk than my kitchen). I feel thankful to have a home with a yard and a family to keep me company during this time, but as for work I miss the energy of school. I miss the laughter in the hallways, the cheers in the gym, the tears of pride in the theatre and the ability to soak in all the learning that is happening around us. I look forward to the day we are all back together, for real.

Bart Kryger (Middle School Vice-Principal)

With the transition to virtual learning, the ASW campus has become a very quiet place. We started with most middle school teachers working on campus, but now there is just a handful of staff members here each day. Although most of them opt to work from home I continue to walk into work daily. I have been very proud of how middle school students and teachers have adjusted and persevered through this new type of learning experience. This has really inspired me to "make the whole world my classroom" as I adapt to this virtual environment myself. Parent, student, and staff survey analysis has become a key part of my work here at school and continues to help us refine our program. Just like the classes on campus, all of my administrative, student, and parent meetings have moved into Zoom and Google Hangouts. Although talking to someone through a screen still feels strange, it works for now. Much work has also been done to build next year's master schedule while we have be in virtual learning. During the school year, I rarely sit at my desk. In Virtual school, as the picture shows, I spend a bit more time there, but still find myself working in the middle school commons or in other parts of of the school. Although it is quiet and I am getting a lot of work done, I miss real human interaction with middle school students, staff, and parents. I look forward though to seeing everyone back on campus sometime soon.