Providing outstanding preparation for life… in a digital world.
When classes resume after Spring Break, the opportunity for our students to learn will be the same even though the classroom might look different. Tireless work has been happening for the last two weeks at SMUS (well, at our teachers’ homes) as we prepare for the real possibility of online learning.
“The fundamental goal is to continue to provide an education for our students that is just as strong in a digital world,” says Director of Academics Denise Lamarche, who has worked closely with Director of Educational Technology Dave Hlannon and the Directors of Junior, Middle and Senior Schools, to lead teachers in moving our Kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum online. “We have a fantastic team of educators who have been nimble and creative in undertaking this challenge to design something strong and engaging for their students.”
When school let out on March 13, our faculty immediately got to work familiarizing themselves with the tools they need so students can make the shift from classroom learning to digital learning (and eventually back to the classroom) as smooth as possible.
In the event that school is taught remotely come April 14, students should expect to learn in ways that are new, while still consistently receiving the quality education they’re used to at SMUS.
Consistency and Continuity
“The first priority is to make sure we’re looking at areas of the curriculum that require more continuity, especially to prepare students for the next grade or university,” Denise says. “We want to ensure students are well supported and on track to continue achieving as they have been.”
That means the daily and weekly schedule for remote learning has been creatively built to meet the specific needs of Junior, Middle and Senior School students. Students will still be connecting with all of their teachers and will continue in all of their classes, but some subjects will be allotted more time in the schedule at first.
Teachers will balance digital time (through Google Classroom and video-conferencing) with offline work, and intentional breaks are built into students’ schedules so they aren’t sitting at a computer all day.
While “classroom learning” will look different, Denise says she has been impressed by the ingenuity of teachers to find ways to teach in unique ways that continue to engage students. She says support and input from faculty with backgrounds in experiential education and educational technology has helped teachers create meaningful lessons that students can do at home.
A key part of a SMUS education is the connections built beyond the classroom that help students in all areas of their lives. That’s why faculty and staff are keen to ensure that our counsellors, learning resource specialists, grade advisors, university counsellors, boarding advisors and school chaplain are brought in to students’ digital worlds. TAG and homeroom teachers will also be meeting with their students online on a regular basis.
“It’s really important that we maintain all of these pieces for students now more than ever as they get used to this new learning norm,” Denise says. “Students thrive on that face-to-face social connection and that sense of community is so important at our school, so we want to make sure they can maintain those connections in a remote learning environment.”
Opportunity Through Resilience
As Head of School Mark Turner wrote in a recent update to our community, we are living in fast-changing and uncertain times, and we recognize that everyone will need to be flexible in the weeks ahead, should the shift to online learning be necessary.
“We live in unprecedented times. Never before has the school been closed indefinitely by provincial authorities,” Mark wrote. “We believe that in adversity there is also opportunity. By staying true to our values of respect, courage, honesty and service, we will get through this.”
Denise adds that through resilience, our school and our community will make the best out of the situation when Term 3 begins. Specific information on what that looks like will be shared with students and parents before the Easter weekend.
“I want students and teachers to know about the importance of taking things slow, especially when things seem stressful and overwhelming. It’s not going to be the same; it may feel a little messy, but we will get through this together. That is the strength of our community,” Denise says.
“We hope that we will all be back together on campus soon, but if that’s not possible then I look forward to what this opportunity allows for from our students; they can take their creativity and apply their learning in new ways that will be just as memorable and meaningful for them. We can take the strengths of who we are – our program, our community, our professionalism – and continue to deliver an excellent education for our students, just in a different environment.”
Please visit our website for the latest information from the school on our proactive response to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. There you’ll also find Frequently Asked Questions pages that are updated regularly with answers to questions you and your family have on a number of topics including remote learning, examinations and graduation.