Foundations of learning
A culture of trust and respect. The application of sound judgement in the processing of new information. The belief that technology isn’t here to rule us, but to serve us. These are among the foundational attributes of the Columbus Academy learning experience. So, when COVID-19 shook every aspect of daily life around the world, our school community – bolstered by these essential qualities – was able to adapt.
Teaching through a laptop screen isn’t ideal. But trusting our teachers to know what their students would need – and providing whatever technology they’d need to fulfill it – made the shift to remote learning in the spring of 2020 less daunting. And, it also informed the plans being made for the fall opening of school.
“Faculty quickly shifted gears from ‘okay, there’s going to be a loss’ to ‘We have a lot to work with. How do we do it?’” says Cory Izokaitis, Head of Upper School.
As Head of Lower School Mark Hansen noted, it makes sense for the teachers who best know the students in their classrooms to put together their pandemic teaching plan.
We gave the teachers free rein, which allowed each of them to move forward,” Hansen said. “Every grade level had the freedom to tailor their approach to what they knew would work for their students”
Together, even while apart
Teachers at Columbus Academy know their students well – knowing when to challenge a student, when to accelerate the learning process and when to pause, when to inquire and when to provide space. This proved especially important when the COVID-19 outbreak caused families to adapt to radically different learning modes and daily routines. Teachers, counselors, advisors and coaches all made an extra effort to maintain personal connections by scheduling one-on-one time with students and parents, finding opportunities for social interaction such as on-campus outdoor gatherings and innovative ways for students to collaborate online.
“We thought a lot last spring about how much time students would be spending online,” says Head of Middle School Shaka Arnold, who has four children of his own in third, fifth, seventh and ninth grades.
We knew there was a risk for too little social interaction. Teachers worked hard to provide students with chances to partner up.”
Striking the right rhythm for the 2020-version of a school day was important, a rhythm that balanced interactive screen time, offline individual study and restorative moments of relaxation.
An education model that prepared us well
Academy’s way of cultivating in its students the intellectual and emotional capacity to process new information has kept remote learning in healthy perspective for students, teachers and parents. Our Positive Education model, incorporated into every facet of academic (and extracurricular) life, recognizes wellness as the centerpiece of students’ lives – physically, emotionally and intellectually.
Positive Education aims to help students build positive emotions, be more effective learners, stay self-aware of the way their own minds and emotions work and consciously lead healthier lives. Best of all, it instills in students a mindset they take with them everywhere – no matter where the “classroom” happens to be.
In a year of extreme volatility and change, when there’s been no shortage of new sensory input, both online and offline, this model helps students – and their parents – process all of that stimulation in a grounded way.
“Our brains love stimulation and information, but not at the expense of thinking deeply and creatively, or having human connections and relationships,” says Dr. Suzanne Ritter, upper school psychologist. “So, we have to strive to master what comes into our brain – curate it – rather than having it master us.”
Helping parents help their children
In 2020, family life was filled with question marks. What will our new daily routine look like? How will our children learn? What are schools doing beyond online instruction to guide students and parents through this unprecedented period? Since March of 2020, and every day since, the faculty of Columbus Academy have set forth to answer these questions. As explained by Head of School Melissa Soderberg, in one of her many letters to families:
[Teachers] were beginning to see that to create the kind of connection with their students they felt was important and expected, their every waking hour was needed to master the technology, plan the schedules and curate the messages to reach their students through a fog of uncertainty and forced isolation. The faculty was digging back to one of the most important parts of Academy’s education – the relationship between our teachers and their students – and working to reconnect to that core from which knowledge-building and skill-acquisition are based.”
Even past the midway point of the 2020-21 school year, uncertainties still abound. But the unchanging qualities of our school – our values, mission and strength of our community – equip us to move forward. We welcome you to join the Columbus Academy community in the years ahead.
Ready to learn more? Come see Academy for yourself.
We look forward to sharing the Academy Experience with you!