After Isolation, Reconnection is More Important than Ever

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Marti Lotman

Upper School students return to new campus procedures, including morning temperature checks, on the first day of in-person learning.

After being apart for so long, it is time to reconnect.

While people have had to social distance, the world is starting to open up again. Grandparents are beginning to reconnect with family members after isolating due to high-risk, and students are starting to reach out to their peers and teachers as school begins. COVID-19 has taken over the world, and as a result, we all have to accept that we are going to have to make a number of changes when we reconnect.

After almost six months of operating from home and participating at jobs, school, and social events remotely, we have developed new strategies to deal with life while everything is virtual. When we go back to school and start to reconnect in person, it will take time to adjust.

Throughout the quarantine, students have been wearing pajamas to online school, pets have been on Zoom calls, and people have been using technology so much more to interact. This year is going to be about developing flexibility and reflecting on how we can move forward during such a challenging time.

This school year, a number of changes have been made to adjust for those students who choose to remain online after the School reopens in-person. One of the major changes has involved the schedule. To accommodate for online learning, the start of the year will consist of four block days a week and one seven period day. With each class only meeting three times a week, students will have to adjust to a different distribution of homework and tests, and teachers will have to change their lesson plans to cover more material in each block period. While this is so different from what a pre-COVID school day looked like, students and teachers need to accept this change rather than push against it.

Another new aspect to this remote living situation is the lack of social activity between peers. With 47 new freshmen coming into the Upper School and at least one new student in every other grade, it has created a challenge for those students to integrate into the Benjamin community. Starting off the year with online school, those students will not truly get the chance to bond with their classmates during lunch or get to know their teachers. However, rather than staying isolated, students will have to make that extra effort and develop relationships in different ways, whether they use advisory time on Zoom to learn more about their peers or taking advantage of the breakout rooms during group assignments.

The other aspect of this COVID situation is that when the School reopens, some students will still opt to continue to learn remotely. With some students on campus and others online, teachers are going to have to integrate far more technology into their teaching.

In the past when teachers may have given a test or worksheet, it would be on paper, but with some students working from home, that is not a viable option. As a result, teachers will have to create assignments and tests that are available to take online. Embracing this change is imperative to keep all students informed regardless of how they decide to attend school, and even after COVID is eradicated, schools may remain more technology focused.

The School has already embraced this change by adding TVs and other new technology to make online learning more effective, and those tools will be useful in the classroom regardless of whether we are remote or not. If this situation has taught us anything, it is that nothing lasts forever.

We have been isolating for almost six months, and now we are starting to reintegrate into our communities. Although it will not be easy, human connection is essential, and we can’t give up on that idea of reaching out to others, especially when people have been so isolated for so long. As our siblings and friends start going off to college, it is important to remember that we always need to make the effort to reconnect.