This blog marks the last in my series on Education Amidst a Pandemic. I am so grateful to Jackie and Outermost Education for the opportunity to be able to research and write for this blog. I have learned so much over the past five months and it has allowed me to perceive education in a completely different light. The pandemic has wrecked so many lives and illuminated even more underlying issues in our country and our world. The education system faces the brunt of many of these issues. Analyzing it under the context of the pandemic allows for a greater understanding of education as a whole.

I set out to explore education during the pandemic and discovered so much more. As someone who is searching for a career in the education world, it was incredibly informative and enlightening to be able to research the influence the pandemic holds on it and the potential implications that the future may hold. I was able to converse with educators on their experience, hear directly from the source how their world has been completely flipped. I used their thoughts combined with my research to illustrate the impact that the coronavirus has had on education. The terror and tragedy that have come with the pandemic have cost families across the country their livelihood and happiness. While we grieve over the past year it is equally important to acknowledge the new perspective that we have gained because of it. Students and teachers are now able to understand each other in a completely different light, hopefully gaining a new sense of respect on both ends. We as a people now have a fuller understanding of education.

Though the future of education in this country is uncertain, the past year has taught us so much about the system as a whole. We do not know what is coming and although the pandemic has been horrible, we must look at the silver linings and perceive the benefits that it has inevitably given us. I am hopeful for the rest of the year and truly believe that schools and educators will come out of this stronger than before.


Relevance of Standardized Testing

Standardized testing has been around for many years and for as long as it has been around it has been considered a staple in the education system by many. It allows for an assessment of many aspects of the education system. Teachers and students alike are evaluated through these various standardized exams. They might regulate funding or reflect on specific teachers. These tests allow students to demonstrate their knowledge in order to get into private schools and eventually colleges. Evaluations like these can allow for better understanding of students and the school’s abilities. However, since they have started, the tests have had their critics. Many believe that they do not accurately portray the student as a whole and that far too much weight has been put on these scores. During this pandemic, many of these tests were postponed and canceled forcing schools to evaluate in other manners. Though the long term effects of this pause in testing are yet to be seen, I will be discussing their possible lasting impacts on potential changes in the education system.

Through the turbulence of education amidst a pandemic, students and schools have demonstrated that they can continue the process of education without these tests. For many months standardized testing was pushed back due to the pandemic and many students were unable to take whatever test the school may require, therefore forcing the colleges to no longer require these test scores on the applications. This allowed for everyone to be able to see the impact that lack of testing has on the education system. State standardized testing was also paused and may continue to be put on hold in the future. Many are interested to see how this impacts testing and admissions. Clearly, they were able to allocate funding in schools as well as admit students without this score. Whether these decisions were made accurately is not certain, however, it was able to be done without these tests.

Standardized testing has many advantages, as well as disadvantages for both students and institutions. One incredibly important factor in favor of standardized testing is the ability to allow students from less impressive schools or backgrounds to be seen. Many students across the country do well, but a strong grade point average from an elite school in New England usually holds more weight than someone with the same grade point average at a school that is perceived as lesser. Doing well on these tests can bring attention to a student who may not have received the same attention without their strong test scores. However, doing well on these tests frequently measures socioeconomic status more than anything. Having a tutor or parents that have the time and skills to help makes a massive difference in scores. Students obviously are able to achieve higher scores when they have the resources to so. 

Testing for next year is still up in the air, but big names in colleges seem to be leaning away from requiring it. Rumors about Biden canceling State spring testing are also circulating. Much is unknown at this time and we perhaps will not have all the information now, but a couple of years down the road it will be fascinating to reflect on the change this pandemic caused; whether it is good or bad we will have a unique perspective on comparing enrollment within education to times with testing and to times without. This is incredibly important and may demonstrate an inherent value in the tests or it may demonstrate the futility in these kinds of testing once and for all.

No matter what opinion you may have on standardized testing it is beneficial to analyze the past year where they did not occur and were not required for the schools and universities. This pandemic once again has allowed us to uncover issues amidst education as a whole. While the circumstances are obviously far from ideal, it is necessary to capitalize on this unique opportunity to better education and the school system. Schools were able to choose their students based on traits beyond one or two scores.  Now whether these assessments were fair or accurate is unknown at this point, but it will be quite interesting to reflect on these numbers surrounding admissions and funding once we reach some form of normal down the road. Perhaps the tests are of inherent value to the education and this time without them will illustrate this; or maybe this will be the beginning of the end of standardized testing as we know it.


Education Amidst Social Unrest

Race shouldn’t be a topic one day or one month out of the year. The racial disparities that exist in this country, and especially in the classroom, deserve to be addressed and acknowledged within the curriculum and daily life; because that is how they are experienced. They are not something to be checked off the list on a certain day or month, because it is a privilege to be learning about racism rather than experiencing it. Acknowledging and educating on race and racism in classrooms should be considered normal. Now more than ever it must be incorporated into the curriculum. We exist in a time of divisiveness and distrust; a global tragedy looming over our heads amplifies the ever-present institutional racism. The pandemic amplifies issues of race in that it affects people of color so much more, just like most issues in this country.

The primary issue in discussions on race in school is the fact that they are simply not occurring. Especially at younger levels, where children should be developing the vocabulary to be able to talk about race; there is this odd myth that children are “colorblind” and learn about race and racism as they grow, and this is simply not true. Children are able to recognize race and differences in people at an extremely young age and are not given the vocabulary to discuss and comprehend anything to do with race. By inhibiting these conversations, they become taboo and are pushed under the rug only furthering the issues with race in schools. These necessary discussions are usually not happening in normal classrooms and when many transitioned to remote, these conversations become even more difficult and rare.

Once they move forward with their education it becomes quite uncomfortable to talk about recent issues of race. Instead, school curriculum places these issues in the past, solely basing discussions on slavery or the civil rights movement, furthermore, implying the historical aspect of it rather than the present issues. Understanding the past is of course important, however, within that, we must acknowledge the present as well. Implying these issues are only in the past is extremely harmful to the rhetoric around race as well as students of color. Students of color experience the bias and prejudice that white students are fortunate enough to only learn about, and even then, many are not informed on the present discrimination. Teachers usually do not look like their students. The achievement gap is real. Stereotype threat is real. Discriminatory practices within education are very real. Discriminatory school practices are a reflection of much greater issues throughout the country. As I have brought up in previous blogs schools can oftentimes be perceived as a microcosm for the rest of our country. Structural racism cannot be dismantled within the walls of a school, but addressing these, especially those present in the school, can be an incredibly important tool.

In the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred this summer, many teachers I spoke to felt obliged to incorporate more discussions around race. Including special diversity projects or even just bringing up racial issues within the old curriculum, many even said it came up more naturally within the previous curriculum just because it is on the forefront of many student’s minds. While most of these actions are far from groundbreaking, it is slightly hopeful that it is being worked in the new normal in schools. These topics, which are already difficult for some to initiate, only become more difficult when learning and teaching through a screen. This is a sort of Catch-22 because the surrounding world that has created the situation in which remote learning is necessary, has a huge racial impact that must be discussed. COVID disproportionally affects Black people and we live in a system that profits off of the exploitation of people of color; when it starts to crumble those are the ones who will be affected.

Our country has faced incredible turbulence this past year. Divides between different groups are growing and at times it has felt incredibly hopeless. The racism that exists in our country is hardly specific to this year, however, the pandemic created this unique situation where one instance of police brutality in Minneapolis was enough to be the spark. Unfortunately, George Floyd was one of many in the police’s checkered past. The events that occurred after felt like a long time coming. Everyone in the country bore witness to the protests that occurred and continue to do so, especially students. This was a large event and, frankly, quite traumatic for students of color. That makes it even more important to address this in classrooms appropriately and sensitively. There is this fear of being offensive and that fear enables many educators into sweeping a lot of racial issues under the rug, not always because they don’t care, just because it is easy to give in to their discomfort. However, this discomfort is important to uncover. The pandemic has created a situation where it is even more difficult to facilitate conversations surrounding the racism in our classroom and country, and this very pandemic is amplifying the racial issues the country faces; this makes it all the more important to do so. Education amidst social unrest is not just important, but necessary.

As a white college student, I will never understand what people of color experience daily, and I will never fully understand what I am writing about today because of the color of my skin. My words above barely scratch the surface of the racial issues within schools. I hope that it sheds some light on these issues and how the pandemic negatively influences them. It is time for white people to listen, amplify and most importantly to learn. The school system is very powerful and the change that is needed starts there.


Weariness and Walking

No matter what side of the political aisle you may find yourself, the last week has been very troubling. Grim news seems to persist into the cracks of our everyday lives, whether we want it or not. It is a weight coming over an already heavy period in our country’s history. I think a lot of people anticipated a drastic change in this New Year, a change that has yet to come. Vaccine rollout is seemingly far away for most of the population, the political divisiveness is ever deepening and the pandemic as a whole seems like a dark cloud that stretches far and wide with no signs of sunlight. It is incredibly tiring to bear all of this stress and information; the weariness of the general population is especially present in students across the country.

Students have a unique access to technology in the realm of remote learning; in face most have to use it in some form. Technology is now a direct passageway to every news story out there. It can turn quickly into this overwhelming and vast space with no escape. As a college student who has at least developed some critical thinking skills throughout my education and life, it is difficult to consume and comprehend all of the unsettling knowledge found within the online news. Expecting this information acquired via technology to be properly consumed by younger students is simply not realistic. Nowadays most of school is on an Ipad or laptop or some form of technology where everything that is happening in the world can be accessed. Young students are consuming very troubling media that they are simply not prepared to consume developmentally; I have worked with many middle schoolers the past few summers and they have more than enough on their plates without a pandemic and political crisis. Most adults are struggling with the weight of society and its troubles, children and students are feeling it as well.

There also is a sense of indulgence in education and learning at this moment. How does some geometry homework compare to what feels like the world crumbling around us? Adults are unable to manage and control the bad parts of the world and the weight now also lies on the shoulders of the youth. Being a teenager is hard, it makes everything else in life that much more troubling, especially a pandemic. High schoolers especially always feel a lack of importance within their work, as if it is distanced from reality. At this moment schools seem like galaxies away from our reality. Learning is now a sort of luxury that can be squashed by the weight of everything surrounding the students. In the past there was a perception that the grown-ups were handling things outside of the school walls, this no longer appears to be true. This doesn’t just affect the students, teachers are feeling the weight of the outside world as well. When they log off of Zoom when the day is done, they are hit with what seems like more bad news every day. This is incredibly draining and they are perhaps feeling the same lack of importance around school that their students are. Talking about Chemistry or English can seem quite arbitrary in this very moment, that is not to diminish their actual importance on a student’s education, only to say that right now it can sometimes seem selfish to focus on anything but the matters at hand.

Learning and teaching is hard right now, being human is hard right now for many people and specifically for those in the school system. There is so much surrounding us that feels out of control, I know I have been feeling that myself. When everything appears out of control and heavy it is crucial to remember to take care of your well-being. In these unprecedented times, we must care for ourselves, and that all starts with the brain. This does not need to involve extensive yoga or a perfect workout or a 5-course meal, it can be something quite simple. Jackie sent me an amazing article and video this week on neurosurgeon, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and his perception of keeping your brain and yourself sharp during a pandemic. One key action to take in order to help yourself is to talk a walk with a friend. This is nothing groundbreaking or difficult or expensive, it is simply taking time to move and have some sort of interaction. This perception is quite powerful in its simplicity and can bring great alleviation to the heavy stress. I have linked these below and believe them to be a great resource in troubling times. Everyone is struggling, especially students, and when the world seems like it is caving in on us that is when these small actions can be so incredibly meaningful towards your health.  It is the little tasks like this that will get us through these turbulent times, moments of self-care that may not be perceived as such. The outside world is pushing on the walls of schools and weighing heavy on students’ and educator’s shoulders. Learning and teaching is not an easy task at any time and when we have this dark cloud looming above it is all the more difficult. I hope these resources below provide small tasks to hold on to in the meantime.

Dr. Gupta talks about keeping your brain sharp 

To ‘Keep Sharp’ This Year, Keep Learning, Advises Neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta



Special Education and Pandemics

Special education is one of the most important aspects of a school, and one frequently is overlooked. My own family has a couple of teachers in special education, and I have heard the various tales, the horrors as well as the wonders. Under normal circumstances, it can be unpredictable, and a pandemic brings many new variables that make the unpredictability even more present. In this blog, I will attempt to unpack and convey the experiences of students in special education programs during a pandemic, while recognizing that each student’s experience varies on principle and I will not be able to relay a universal experience for students nor their specific circumstances. Nonetheless, I will address the inherent difficulties that come with remote learning for students who may need more than a more traditional academic setting.

The setting of learning has a great effect on every student especially those within special education programs. Throughout a regular school day, they can leave a traditional classroom and join a smaller one with their specialists. This type of separation from their day to day learning is a key aspect for students in the program, whether they practice reading or math or social behavior, they are able to do so away from the stress and distractions of a chaotic classroom. Remote learning takes away the separation between lessons. Instead of going to a safe space where they can focus on learning, they must remain in their homes. There is no inherent change of setting that can exist between the walls of the school. The pandemic has taken that away, which can make acquiring the desire skills trickier for students.

Some students, however, are able to thrive under this turbulent situation. While working closely with all of their teachers they are able to cultivate a great learning environment without the traditional distractions from school. Granted, there are many other distractions at home depending on living circumstances, yet some were able to push past this and achieve even more than they were able to under traditional circumstances. Their homelife and support system is strong enough to withstand the uncertainty and even thrive under it. My mom is a special education teacher and she frequently reflected on how pleasantly surprising it was to see how well specific students were doing. They were able to set alarms throughout the day to make sure they made it to class, they could chat and Zoom with teachers for help with assignments, and countless other tricks in order to succeed. Depending on many variables outside of students own ability or control they can and do succeed amidst remote learning.

The hybrid learning that my hometown and many other public school’s hopes to transition into soon was a bit more troublesome in the fall for this group of students. The routine developed both remotely and in school is disrupted by being forced to go back and forth throughout the week. Boarding schools will not have this issue, as most schools will be able to return in-person through rigorous planning done by each school. For many public schools, however, this transition to in-person does include a hybrid format prior to the return. The lack of consistency with hybrid is not easy for any student, let alone one who thrives on a specific routine. Fortunately for my hometown, the children under the special education program will be among the first to return to school and will hopefully be able to obtain the type of routine necessary for their success within the school. I hope this is true of other districts and that children under the special education program can receive the smooth transition back to in-person learning that they deserve. 

School’s special education programs across the country have been put to the test amidst this pandemic. There have been wild successes as well as difficult circumstances just as with any other part of the school. The teachers and students have worked incredibly hard in order to stay on track. While every student has different experiences during the pandemic, those in the special education program are going to face even more challenges; though through their own hard work and the efforts of all of their teachers many are able to succeed under these turbulent times. Acknowledging the new pandemic learning through the lens of special education allows for yet another perspective that creates a fuller picture of education during a pandemic.     


Divisiveness and the Education System

A couple weeks ago my hometown held a “Let Them Learn” rally in response to schools shutting down across the state. I found this slogan to be particularly odd, as if one side was fundamentally against allowing children to learn, while also implying that the learning ends outside the walls of the school, discrediting the incredible work the teachers across the country are doing. I think each person on either side of the argument surrounding pandemic education can agree that children deserve the best education possible; getting back to school safely is what everyone desires, and it is important to keep in mind how much each side cares about this. Discourse is healthy and quite necessary in huge decisions like these, however, to imply that one side does not care about the well-being and education of students is a disservice to the decision-making process as a whole. It speaks to a greater issue in the decisions within education across the country. Everyone wants students to receive the best education possible while being safe, this is not a controversial statement whatsoever. 

This week I came across two different articles relaying two very different experiences for schools during a pandemic. One conveyed the elite Boston suburb while the other Community school 55. Both Brookline and the Bronx want nothing more than educated, happy children, though the way they go about it may be different they each have the same goal. As we maneuver through the coming months it is important to focus on what everyone has in common to obtain the best education possible for children across the country.

The two articles I read are from drastically different places trying to come to the same solution of providing their students with the support and education they deserve. The New York Times highlighted the reopening of New York City’s Community School 55 and The Slate writes of Brookline, an extremely elite district outside of Boston. One of the wealthiest districts in the country has the same goals as a much larger inner-city district. Two drastically different groups grapple with the same issue, one with endless resources and the other decidedly lacking in those departments. Both share the passion and desire to allow their students to succeed in a safe environment. The resources may vary but the goals remain the same. The comparison of these two situations demonstrates the shared hopefulness surrounding our school system, a hopefulness supplied by the fact that everyone does cares so deeply and wants what is best for the students of their school.

An interesting part of these conversations surrounding reopening, especially about the wealthier district, is that the decisions are being made by those who will not be impacted by these consequences. This type of decision-making process is indicative of many throughout this country. The people making the decisions are not those who will face the potential consequences. Teachers in the NYT piece shared the possible impacts being in school may have on their families and their own well-being. The Slate highlights the peculiar lack of educators within the discussions in Brookline. I am not certain what role educators should play within this decision-making process, but to prevent the union and individual teachers from the talks does not seem productive in any way. Most people would agree that they should have some input in this important manner. Big decisions like this require experts, and they are not allowing the teaching experts to convey what they know within the walls of the school. Epidemiologists are obviously the most important perspective during a pandemic (and abundant in Brookline), and we should listen to their opinions because they are the experts we need. Just as when you are making decisions regarding classrooms, teachers should be perceived as the experts that they are. The teachers and union members were not even allowed in the meeting to decide their fate. And while the decisions are primarily for the children it is the teachers who are far more at risk than the average student. The video in the NYT article demonstrated the teacher’s obvious desire to be in the classroom, but also addressed the obvious potential dangers they fear. Regardless of what a person may believe in this particular matter, I believe the majority of people would also hope that the teachers would have a say in the matter. Not only does it affect them, but they are also most knowledgeable on the education side, a very important perspective on the decisions surrounding a school.

I hope, like everyone else, that we will be able to achieve some form of normal in the coming months and that the hard work done by every educator across the country has paid off. Everyone is working towards the same goal of reopening and hopefully that may be achieved soon. Though at times disheartening, I am choosing to have faith that our education system will make it through this difficult period more knowledgeable than before; that they will be able to walk away having acquired a greater knowledge of every student and educator within their walls. The teachers in the NYT video demonstrated passion and kindness and the desire to learn and help children, a sentiment shared by thousands of teachers across the country. No matter the state of the school system, remote or in-person, these teachers want the best for their students and that shone through in the video. The perfect scenario would be in-person, but for the time being everyone is doing what they believe is best for the students, and in discussing these factors we must acknowledge the mutual desire for the well-being of our children. In an extremely divisive time in our country it is important to remember that within the education system everyone’s goals united, and the children’s safety and education must prevail above all else.

I encourage all to read the articles I have referenced above and linked below! Please leave any thoughts you may have in the comments!



New Testing’s Implications within Education

The trucks containing the new vaccine are traveling throughout the country along with the news and opinions swirling around it. There is a definite shift in the outlook of the next couple of months along with this news. This change will be far from immediate, and it is important to consider and continue to utilize the other solutions within pandemic education that scientists have offered in the meantime. A new vaccine that has not even begun pediatric testing is not a perfect, immediate solution and we are far from ridding ourselves from masks and social distancing. With the news of the vaccine in mind, along with potential implications on boarding schools, Jackie sent me an NPR article illuminating the future of testing and we immediately got to chatting on the benefits this will have the education system. The vaccine is coming hopefully soon and safely, but in the meantime, the new rapid testing may be just the tool that educational institutions need to make their way towards returning in person. Today I will be discussing the impact that these changes have on the schools and the educators within them.

These new tests that NPR reported on have rapid results that are extremely effective. This will change all of the procedures surrounding testing in institutions. Boarding schools will be aided drastically by this new form of testing; especially those who do not have as deep of pockets as other schools. This testing could cut their return to school process in half! The return to school included quarantine, social isolation, and testing for the schools that had the money and resources. These new at-home tests are said to be relatively affordable and extremely rapid and effective, which will make them much more accessible for schools that didn’t have the testing necessary to be safe in the fall. Having this ability to test quickly and accurately will change the school’s protocol and allow for a safer and more enjoyable time on campus. This past fall schools participated in an intense and time-consuming process to ensure the safety of staff and students.

The new tests may shorten and ease this lengthy process that occurred in the fall. Many schools will be able to administer these tests, when before some schools did not have resources or money to access enough testing for staff and students. Schools will be able to administer these tests within the campuses allowing for a greater grasp on the virus and its effect at the school. This type of testing will give control to many schools that lacked it in the past two semesters. It is anticipated to be available as early as this spring and I am hopeful of the impact it will have on schools, especially boarding schools and colleges.

Colleges are another group that will also benefit greatly from these new rapid tests. My college was fortunate to have the funds to be able to provide an abundance of tests for students and staff, and with these new tests, this will be possible for every college across the country. This will give all schools a better chance of having the in-person classes that their students desire and deserve. Boarding schools and colleges can certainly be hotspots for disease and the ability to have effective results promptly will allow greater knowledge and control over the virus within the school.

While the future of this young vaccine is not certain, these tests provide an important fallback and allow for greater control of people and student’s health. These rapid tests will be beneficial for everyone, but the impact on the education system will be immediate. Boarding schools and colleges will be able to return and, hopefully, remain on campus for the remainder of the school year with the new tests. The pandemic is not solved with the wave of a wand, but these tests are going to be a huge part of the solution leading up to our hopeful return to normalcy. Making way towards normalcy it is important to utilize the tools and strategies given to us by those who know best; the new rapid tests, staying masked and social distancing are all key parts to the elusive solution the country desires. Providing the tests to places like schools will be an important first step in controlling the pandemic and allowing students to return to the education they deserve. This has been an undeniably difficult year for most people across the world, and it is extremely heartening to have this small piece of good news that will have a widespread positive impact, especially on our education system.

Thank you for reading and please leave any thoughts below!



The Shifting Role of Caregivers

The new reality created within the household by the pandemic allows for a dynamic that hasn’t existed prior to remote learning. The roles in every household have shifted according to these unprecedented times. With children at home and some family members there in whatever form as well, there is a shift no matter familial circumstances. Siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or whoever else may be in student’s lives, have acquired a larger role during the pandemic, they have been forced to take on much more than in the past. Along with this change comes an inherent shift in actual relationships, a fascinating difference within these unprecedented times. The word caregiver seems much better suited now more than ever when referring to a student’s support system, as other parts of the family or circle of people the student has are able to step up.

Siblings have played a much different part in the household than previous school years. Whether it be making sure their brother or sister get to their Zoom on time or helping with homework that used to have been done with classmates or friends, many siblings have stepped up in unique and amazing ways. Many parents are at work or working from home and in their absence,  someone has to take their place. Those who are lucky enough, have siblings who are willing to adapt to a new role. This is an interesting shift in relationships for households across the country and something to be considered in the aftermath of the pandemic. I even see this support in the students I am currently working with, they are able to give each other help on their assignments.

Parents have also obviously had to step up in more ways than can be counted. Those who do so have been vital in the journey of remote education. They are also hopefully gaining a fuller perspective of education and just how much responsibility teachers have along the way. The teachers I have been fortunate enough to speak to have expressed hopefulness that the parents have gained a new respect for what they do and just how much work goes into everyday learning. Teachers are only able to accomplish so much through the screen and the difference needs to be made up in some other form. That difference is much more difficult to make up in some households compared to others. When parents can be of support in any way, they allow for the students to succeed under these difficult circumstances. Once again, I recognize that this is unfortunately not possible for a large number of families across the country, and this lack of support system at home only exacerbates the ever present academic gap reflect through socioeconomic statuses. 

Relationships within households are ever-changing and as we are spending an abundance of our time in homes with family, the roles continue to shift. In the context of education, the roles have become even more important, and varied, than ever. They differ drastically between families and the impact on children depends on the ability of the family to adapt. Family plays an important part of education under normal circumstances and this is amplified within the pandemic. Family dynamics are imperative when considering the impact, the pandemic has on education. Student’s help from home does not, and sometimes cannot, come from parents; caregivers come in many forms and it is thanks to these caregivers that many students are able to succeed. This is not the case in all households, and it is important to acknowledge this, but it is also important to acknowledge and applaud the many caregivers who are able to allow students to succeed from home.

Thank you for reading and please leave any thoughts below!


Be Kind

Throughout my work on this blog, I have read many articles and found countless resources on education during a pandemic, each allowing me a unique perspective and providing a fuller understanding of education as a whole. Social media has been another key tool in my comprehension of the reality of teaching during these times. I saw a Tweet the other day essentially stating that while there have been many valid fears of children falling behind academically, framing it in such a way only relays part of the story. These children aren’t simply ‘falling behind’, they are surviving a pandemic, we all are surviving a pandemic and to put it any other way would be a disservice to yourself and everyone in the education system. Parents, students, teachers, education assistants, and every single person within the school are working with what they have. Giving the best you have is truly all that can be done right now. Every student and educator is a survivor and should be proud of what can be achieved under the circumstances.

There is an apparent sense of dreariness plaguing our nation and undoubtedly touching our school system. Teachers and students should of course continue to learn and grow together, but it would be naïve to believe that the pace and information will be the same as years in the past. Comprehending this is important in adjusting expectations for ourselves and others. Just getting through each day is a huge accomplishment for many and it is important to acknowledge this and allow for victories no matter how small to be celebrated. 

I was reminded of the importance when I saw a sign during one of my many walks in my time in Alaska. It was outside the elementary school I passed every morning and it simply stated “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do everything that you can.” Though the words are simple, the meaning is anything but. Especially within the context of an elementary school where the students haven’t roamed the halls for many months. They are yearning for normalcy while acknowledging reality. All we can truly ask of anyone right now is as much as they can give and that varies greatly from person to person. Use whatever tools you can, give your all, but it is also okay if that is not as much as usual. We are all in over our heads and all we can focus on is keeping our head above water.

Protecting yourself and your health is vital during this times. It’s not easy on anyone right now and educators are facing the brunt of it along with their students. It is okay to have to take space from work and obligations, everything appears much greater and scarier at this point in time. It is normal to not achieve what you might have earlier in the year. Teachers are trying their best just as their students are doing the very best they can. This year has been draining, to say the least, and without an end in sight, there is a heaviness weighing on our brothers and sisters across the country. This wears down everyone and recognizing the weight allows for giving grace to oneself and those around you.  

Remember to be kind to yourself and that the best you can give right now might not be the same as the best you gave at this time last year. It is imperative for everyone to take care of themselves now more than ever. Be proud of what you accomplish no matter how small it may seem. Importance and normalcy were lost long ago, and the definitions have shifted to our new normal and every individual must create new definitions for their transformed reality.

Thank you for reading and please leave any thoughts below!


Toll on Teachers

The month of November is proving to be the inevitable second wave that the country has been anticipating since the summer. As the actual disease is spreading rapidly the consequences of its existence expand far past the front lines. The pandemic has taken a toll on every American in some type of way. It has ripped apart our reality and we are surviving in the rubble. Educators have faced the brunt of this disease in more ways than others. There is an obvious desire to be in the classroom with students that is combated by prioritizing the health and safety of their students and themselves. Education is an incredibly powerful part of our society and our educators are right in the middle of this storm.

Educators’ safety is put at risk far more than most students simply because of their age. It is well documented that COVID-19 has a far worse impact on those in a higher age bracket. The students’ safety is obviously the priority for many, but the teachers are the ones who we are truly protecting. Everyone deserves to be safe in their working environment and that remains true here. Schools can be a mess of germs and children. It is well known in your first year in schools often the teachers get far sicker than any other year, sickness spreads fast in schools under normal circumstances. It is simply easy to fall ill in school buildings and while masks help tremendously there is only so much protection offered, especially when the cases outside of the classroom are growing so tremendously.

Beyond the obvious safety concerns, there are also many other aspects of the pandemic in which educators are struggling. The curriculum is another huge part of a teacher’s job, it is their entire world in the classroom; the blueprint that keeps the ship going. Teachers have worked incredibly hard on their specific curriculum and when these unprecedented changes hit there is just no way to truly prepare. As schools around the country are returning to remote, some far more rapidly than others, these changes are still hitting educators hard. Even with every preparation, they may have made there is no way to prepare in the manner needed to have whatever type of success in their classroom.

Safety and education are the top priority for most teachers, especially right now, but there is another layer surrounding educators’ enjoyment and emotional well-being. This remote learning takes away a lot of the true joys of teaching. Even when safety is the top priority, it is still okay to acknowledge just how difficult this has been and just how much it has changed education as a whole. The entire profession has flipped and there is no telling when it and if it will return to normal. This hits especially hard for teachers that have been in this profession for years. Everything they have achieved has been on a different platform and to have to drastically change everything you have ever known late in your career can take a toll on anyone. There is a definite sense of hopelessness within this realm of teachers. Our educator’s worlds have shifted along with our own and it has been truly difficult for most.

These teachers are the staples of our country, they are shaping the youth that will go on to live in the wreckage of this pandemic. They have been doing their best in whatever way they can and suffering because of it. The stress is heavy and the teachers have been bearing it for months. As schools are shutting down again across the country, planned or unplanned it is extremely difficult to make this drastic transition. This is not why they became teachers. The loss of connection and livelihood of the classroom is truly that, a loss. It is impossible to quantify the impact it has had or will have on these teachers. While their roles may be shifting their importance is does not. Make sure and thank your educators today and every day.

Thank you for reading and please leave any thoughts below!


Beyond Academia

Education is far more than books and tests in a classroom. There is an irreplaceable social aspect to school that prepares students for the world and allows them to make important interpersonal connections. The social side of school is something many students regard as the most important to them, this pandemic has taken away so much from so many, including the social-emotional connections within the school. Encouraging students to work beyond academia is quite powerful for their growth, not only as a student but as a person. Which ultimately should be the goal of the school systems. We don’t want to create one-dimensional robot students, we want creative, socially-intelligent, kind students and so much of that comes from outside the curriculum of the school. It comes from classmates, teammates, teachers, and more; diminishing this side of their education is detrimental to their success as a human.

The schools are controlling the pandemic in every way they can, using pods or “families” is one of the main tools boarding schools are utilizing for containment and contact tracing. This means that many students are eating, living, and going to class with the same group of people. Even with your best friends in the world, this can be draining, and the lack of choice in the matter makes it all the more tedious. They are unable to have unlimited social access to people at their school in the way they are used to, and the fact that there we have been in some sort of shut down for the last eight months makes it all the more difficult. Humans are inherently social creatures and to deprive students of this for so long is detrimental to their health. While being in small groups is better than nothing, it seems to be confining in a different way as well. This necessary structure put in place for safety comes at the expense of other aspects of their life. That is not to downplay the necessity and success of these type of structures, it is imperative to keep them in place for the safety of students and staff. While they are necessary, that is not to say that they are not harmful in other ways. And this is not unique to students, everyone across the country has felt this in one form or another, and those who are continuing to respect and follow guidelines put in place are still suffering from it.

Those who may not be following the guidelines may have a new sense of guilt if you are breaking the rules put in place by the state and the schools. As students may or may not be gathering outside of the set boundaries there could also be a feeling of guilt within the desire for social interaction that they have been deprived of for so long. Even if they are seeing friends there is a layer of obligation from society in doing what you can to stop the pandemic. Seeing people and friends may trigger a sense of guilt which can weigh heavy on small shoulders. Many students, or humans in general, have been starved socially for such a long period of time that it is absolutely normal to crave a sense of companionship in whatever form they can get. However, within that companionship could come this guilt and in that a lack of authentic human interaction.

The schools have been doing the very best they can to allow for whatever social access they can give the students. There is an important value of having non-academic groups on campus and allowing for a social experience outside your pod/family. Some sports have been competing in inter-squad games which is valuable for every person on the team. Being able to work with clubs and teams outside your class or assigned group of people can be fulfilling socially. It allows for a foundational part of boarding schools to continue. If done safely, this aspect of schools makes for a unique social experience that they are not receiving from the rest of the new form of the school. Permitting clubs and sports to continue in whatever form they can truly impacts a student’s social-emotional well-being. In allowing them to succeed in this aspect of their life, they are also able to achieve academic success as well. Boarding schools, and schools in general, are a holistic experience and the students deserve however much of it they can acquire during these scary times. The students are being shaped by every part of their life and it is important to continue to nurture the sides that cannot appear over a computer screen or within a socially distant classroom.   

Thank you for reading and please leave any thoughts below!


The New Perspective of Learning

The relationship between learning and simply completing assignments has been a complex one in the education system for many years. The pandemic has not changed that; however, our current reality has certainly amplified it. I have personally experienced this as a college student. As a tutor during the pandemic, I have seen the shift in kids. The information is far less appealing in this form of education, and it is difficult to see beyond the next assignment to complete. Which, to be fair, is something I think every American is feeling at this moment. We are all just trying to get through our next assignment, through this day or week. Everyone is searching for some semblance of normal that may never return.

Within this search for normalcy appears a desire to get things over with. For many children, this is how they have always viewed school and will continue to do so. Yet, in a classroom, with teachers and classmates, they can learn in ways beyond assignment completion. Nowadays, many students are learning over Zoom or in some sort of hybrid form of school, and the whole idea of learning has changed. Within this mode, there is so much room for students to lose the process of learning. It is far more than just acquiring certain pieces of knowledge through their course. They are losing a chance to acquire life skills that come just from being in a school setting. There are countless examples of this. One simple one is the ability to ask questions when in need. This is encouraged and allows students to go beyond their own set of knowledge in soaking up teachers and classmate’s ideas as well. There are a million other small life skills that students are able to achieve in a typical classroom setting that cannot be done through a computer screen.

My own experience with students that I have been working with has demonstrated a list-oriented learning style. The teachers convey what needs to be completed, and the students can check it off the list when they are done. This is very much a completion oriented learning style. This is to no fault of the teachers, nor the students. Lists are a great way to keep track of accomplishments and what is left to be done. However, in doing these completion oriented tasks outside the classroom, sometimes by themselves, it is incredibly difficult to retain the information that they should be acquiring. This is an adaptation to remote or hybrid that allows for success in this specific school type, a success that may not translate to standard school settings. On the other hand, increased responsibility and task assignment skills can also be an essential life skill when able to be utilized correctly. Some students may thrive in this setting and improve their organizational skills, which is a powerful tool in academic success.

Another contributing factor to the shifting process of learning is the lack of or different support systems they may have. Since they do not have the necessary support that they might from school, teachers, tutors, classmate support, etc. they are simply unable to focus on the educational big picture. The support system that exists in the school allows for exploration and new thinking patterns guided by people who are there to help students. Right now, everything else in student’s lives is looming quite large, and school has taken a back seat in many forms. As the school’s role has changed, the perception of school has shifted with it, and it has become a task rather than an experience. Many students do not have the necessary support system at home to succeed in the way they are able to at school with people who can lead them through the learning process rather than completing assignments. Even if they are in person, the social aspect of school is extremely minimized, and the group work that many students thrive on is nonexistent. Education, and school in general, are far more than the tests and books it comes with acquiring the skills to succeed in our world; in our current educational environment, that can be extremely difficult for many students who are still developing these skills.

Throughout my time in my semester off, I have worked with middle schoolers and high schoolers in a hybrid learning environment. While they are all capable and hard-working, this shift is not always easy, especially for middle schoolers. They are still laying the groundwork in becoming a student, and that groundwork is challenging to lay when students have such a disjointed form of learning. Because of this, all of their efforts go into completion rather than retention. It would be naïve to believe that this does not occur in every level of school, pandemic or not, but being at home or working through a computer makes this into a much larger issue.

The consequences of the education system at this moment have yet to be uncovered; however, I am extremely curious to see the implications it has on our students, especially those in primary school. I am also interested in witnessing how this evaluation will be achieved because of what the testing could convey. Perhaps students could do just as well or better on testing because standardized tests do seem to evaluate this type of learning. They can see this limited perspective of students that may have improved in this type of school setting. Standardized tests are based on the idea of completion over learning, the priorities being in time constraints, and finding one correct answer, seemingly mimicking the current learning styles. Perhaps these tests will relay positive results in our modified education system. In this sense, it is important to consider their specific perspective and how it may convey the implications of pandemic education. Regardless of the aftermath, it is clear to me that student’s perception of learning itself and allowing it to be a process rather than a task is shifting within pandemic education, and it is important to acknowledge this as we take on our future that may never return to normal.

Thank you for reading, and please leave any thoughts below!


The Home Becoming the Classroom

The basis for remote learning relies on the teachers only partially, outside factors have a far greater impact than ever before in our new realm of education. Each student comes from a different background with their challenges, some far worse than others. During these times each factor is amplified. While some with supportive, or at the very least, stable homes have a chance to succeed, others must overcome obstacles that children should not have to deal with. While home life has always had an influence on education, it is now at the center of education for many students and plays an even more powerful role. 

Students with different home lives are impacted by the new education jostling. Boarding school, college, or even a normal day school provides an escape from the grasp that reality holds in their own home. While most schools cannot be the perfect haven they hope to be, at the very least they are an escape. Remote learning takes away this escape and puts many more stressors in this new learning environment. There is also another layer of difficulties that inherently come with technology. Learning is now completely centered around the ability to have stable Wi-Fi, which is simply not plausible in many households across the country. Within the new remote learning, the academic gap that existed prior to the pandemic is only amplified during our new learning environment. Students now may be in charge of taking care of younger siblings, they may have a much greater responsibility in the house than they would in a regular school year. The pandemic may have even taken their parent’s job or ripped a loved one from their life. The tragic circumstances we now live under affect some far more than others, and that is now having an even greater impact on our students. 

 The pandemic does not affect everyone equally and even some of those under terrible circumstances can have greater success in our new form of education. Some learners seem to not only be accepting online learning, but thriving within the shift. The new learning, while bringing up very difficult obstacles, also takes away some stressors from other students. Many teachers have expressed their surprise over some students seemingly thriving during whatever form of pandemic education they are in at the moment. Allowing some students to be removed from whatever issues the classroom brings up, allows for them to succeed in a different sort of classroom that they can create on their own. They now hold a new sense of independence and freedom that for some can be difficult to navigate, but for others, it can be a powerful tool in controlling their education. Almost every teacher I spoke to reflected on a portion of their students that did extremely well under these unexpected circumstances. None of them knew a precise reason why this appeared to occur, but it was there, nonetheless. This could be for a plethora of reasons; it could be alleviating social anxiety, being away from a large group of people could contribute to this, or perhaps something as simple as the separation from distracting classmates. Regardless, there is an evident presence of a population of students that are succeeding academically under remote learning.

 There are a million factors that contribute towards whatever you may define as academic success. When academia shifts from the walls of the classroom to the walls of one’s home the factors shift as well. This can be an extremely abrupt change for many students with more turbulent homes. There is a definite loss of stability with the change and that can be quite troubling for many students. Another unexpected obstacle is the realm of Zoom. Social pressures on this platform are being unveiled in manners that were nonexistent in January; including whether or not you have your camera on, what is in the background of your video, the inability to have the sound on in a noisy house, bad Wi-Fi and not being able to be heard/hear anyone else. While students used to have been insecure about wardrobe and appearance, now they are apprehensive about the perception of their home and themselves through the tiny windows of Zoom, while this may seem unimportant it is extremely stressful for students, especially those of lower socioeconomic status. Additionally, in being so isolated through distant learning, the only social interaction they may be having is through these calls which are often draining and socially unfulfilling. Their emotional well-being is another part of their ability to succeed that has been tampered by remote learning.

School can be incredibly stressful for so many reasons, and during these times the reasons may change, but the stressors remain. Some students are able to find the silver lining and are even enjoying our new technological education, even preferring it to their previous learning styles. This is amazing for these students, but is also important to acknowledge the other portion of our learners, those who are barely hanging on by a thread. The complexities of every student have always been there and through my conversations with teachers, it is clear that these complexities are even more apparent during these times. While these are representative of much larger issues within our society, they appear in our school system which can be perceived as a microcosm for what is to come in the real world. 

This issue is far greater than any blog post could convey, but in writing it I hope to create an important dialogue on the acknowledgment of these different standards of life for every student. Thank you for taking the time to read and please leave any thoughts below!


Different Classrooms, Different Challenges

It is imperative to comprehend the differences in subject matters when allowing for a better understanding of pandemic education. Whether students are learning remotely or in some sort of hybrid learning environment it is crucial to consider how the content of what they are learning impacts the way in which they comprehend. Today I will be discussing the various impacts that different subjects in school have on our new form of learning. 

STEM courses are much more content-driven, and it is necessary to make it through specific units to obtain the desired set of knowledge. Guidelines must be set in order to achieve the standards the school or state has put in place. The goals are based on information and acquiring the information is vital to success in the coming years within the subject. Math and science courses need to learn equations and sets of knowledge that allow for them to gain what they need from the course. Last spring was particularly difficult for many of these courses in the abrupt change to remote learning for most of the population. Even now it may become more difficult to make it through the quantity of information that the course may have in the past.

Courses that are not as content-driven allow for the ability to adapt to different circumstances, like remote learning. English teachers can remove a book or story and still achieve the skills that are needed within the course. It is not always the actual literature that they are benefitting from, but the thought process and concepts behind them, therefore they can still hope to acquire the same skills with less content. While that aspect of it makes for a smoother transition, there is a lack of ability to have the discussions needed in this type of course over Zoom, especially for younger kids. Whereas the STEM courses have the opposite issue in that they are forced to stay on track, yet they don’t necessarily need the group discussions that a less content-driven course may need.

There is also the additional aspect of the pandemic intertwining with subjects and the decision on whether to implement aspects of the pandemic into the curriculum. Some teachers I spoke to said it naturally came up within their courses, but they didn’t make any intentional changes to the prior curriculum. Many teachers that I have interacted with, expressed that they do not have any desire to intentionally add it into the curriculum because of how much space it is already taking up in students’ reality. The pandemic never truly escapes anyone’s mind and creating a lesson around only exacerbates the issue. However, allowing it to be incorporated organically can be extremely beneficial to students and their comprehension. Utilizing this global challenge in allowing for a greater comprehension of the subject matter can create a long-lasting sense of knowledge. This can be true in science courses, obviously, but also in other courses such as English or social studies. In allowing for these current events to seep into their classrooms naturally teachers can successfully convey the necessary skills. 

While each type, of course, has its challenges in order to understand remote learning it is important to acknowledge the shortcomings as well as the benefits of teaching a specific subject amidst a pandemic. Remote learning and teaching is not a “one size fits all” type of job. Each subject has its own set of obstacles, but their differences can also allow for a set of unexpected strengths. This is not to say that one subject is easier to teach during a pandemic, only that in exploring the different challenges within each course we can understand education during the pandemic as a whole.  

Thank you for taking the time to read and please leave any thoughts below!


Persistent Sense of Hopefulness

The pandemic holds an enormous impact on students and teachers in our school system. Most articles and observers focus solely on the negative consequences of education during COVID, and rightfully so, but there is also is an interesting balance of discovering the silver lining during the unprecedented chaos. This lining takes on many different forms and requires a different sort of perception. As I have spoken to teachers, there is an inevitable focus on the issues surrounding their new teaching circumstances, but there always comes a time in our conversations where they reflect on the unexpected moments of hopefulness.

The sense of community rises amidst global tragedy, and that is especially potent in schools. The comradery I briefly referred to in the last blog is certainly present in classrooms of every shape and size. There is nothing like mutual suffering to bond a community. Schools, and more specifically classrooms, hold an inherent bond of togetherness. Educators have spoken about the sense of comfort and relief students have in being a part of a school community in whatever way they are able. Those who are in person, especially, have conveyed their positive reactions to being able to see and speak to students. In our world safety and normalcy are difficult to acquire, and a school can be that haven for many students.  

In order to achieve this sense of community, there is a need to utilize technology in ways that have not been used before, which can be scary. Technology’s grip on our society is undeniable in this day and age. It has complete control over our perception of the world and ourselves. Within technology’s control over humanity, it is important to understand and utilize it as well. Learning and teaching online allows for a great opportunity to harness some sense of control over this impending source of power that is technology. There have been so many incredible resources that teachers and students alike are discovering to benefit themselves and their education. Most are much more in tune with technology, or at the very least more aware of the potential it can hold. Teachers have reflected on how much they have been forced to learn through these times, willing or unwilling. The exposure to the newfound tools of education through technology has been largely positive, even though the process and circumstances are not.

The willingness to embrace technology also has a great impact on the transition to this brand new realm of learning. My own experience with online learning this past spring reflected the role that the professors’ willingness to change had on the success of the course. That is not to say that an educator’s technology skills have anything to do with their capabilities as a teacher, but amidst this chaos, those who are more accepting of technology have seemingly been able to make a smoother transition to our new reality of education. For many new educators, technology was already fully incorporated into their classroom, so this new reality was slightly more similar to their own before the pandemic. Whether on Zoom or a form of socially distant classroom, it is now necessary to branch out beyond the traditional classroom setting. Once again this does mean that those who are comfortable with technological learning are superior teachers, only that our new world is more similar to their own before the pandemic. Technology can be quite intimidating on many fronts, but the ability to harness and utilize it is invaluable. 

Modernity and technology are one in the same, one cannot exist without the other. Technology is an inevitability in our modernity and that truth has only grown stronger throughout this wild year. It allows for a unique sense of community and access to an infinite source of information. With this comes a dependency that is quite frightening on many fronts. It is impossible to quantify the success, or the harm technology is having in our schools, but the impact it has is undoubtedly complex and no one, let alone a twenty-something college student, is going to uncover a definite answer. Exploring education in technology is a journey without a destination, a journey that demonstrates the intricacies of being an educator. And amidst these complexities resides a persistent sense of hopefulness and community moving towards our future. 

Thank you for taking the time to read and please leave any thoughts below!


Education in Unprecedented Times

The word “unprecedented” seems incredibly indicative of the past eight months. Almost every single part of our lives has shifted in the wake of COVID-19. As time passes, we move on with our new reality, people change their perception of work and life, and we have all inevitably become an extension of our computers. Amidst all of this new technology and social distancing comes an array of unexpected consequences, as well as benefits. These exist in a workplace, but this blog will be focused on a slightly different outlet, rather than working in the pandemic it will be centered around a different form of work— learning and teaching during a pandemic. Within our realm of remote existence during a pandemic, lies our school system. 

            Students are in some of the most important years in many their lives and the circumstances they are learning under are wildly different from their predecessors. There is a sense of a barrier in learning through a computer or even with a mask on. Teachers have reflected on the unexpected barrier a mask gives, especially this fall as teachers meet new students and are unfamiliar with their faces. Masks are undeniably a necessity in classrooms, but in their use lies that barrier between students and teachers. Schools contain a sense of human connection and a hunger for learning and new experiences, it now falls upon the faculty and schools to make certain that the pandemic does not muffle this desire for knowledge and connection; an unprecedented task for our unprecedented reality. 

            Students and teachers are existing in a new sense of normal and adapting to acquiring knowledge and life skills in far different realities than last September. As a college student in this pandemic I have had ample time to acquire the study skills necessary to succeed in academic settings and I still struggled with online learning this past spring. The majority of students are currently learning these study skills amidst a rather turbulent learning environment and it is important to acknowledge and nurture this fact. They are not only obtaining new knowledge like every other year; they are also learning how to learn under these circumstances; just as teachers are learning how to teach. While the students are learning online or with masks and social distance, the teachers are learning alongside them, all while teaching! It is important to address the newfound relationship between students and teachers, a sort of comradery along with the general sense of uncertainty that is touching everyone. There is often times a perception that teachers are somewhat of superheroes, holding all of the knowledge. In these times there is truly no one holding all of the knowledge surrounding the pandemic and virus, and that is something that the students are having to reconcile with. Students are reaching of new balance of finding out that these teachers and parents are not superheroes and that they are just as confused and helpless as the rest of us. The fragments of reality are shifting in a place where ideally students would be able to come to find comfort and normalcy. COVID has seeped into the metaphorical walls of our school system and the educators are dealing with the many consequences of a pandemic. The most important years in student’s lives are shifting along with their teachers and both must find new ways to succeed within whatever new form of classroom they have been placed. 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read and please leave any thoughts below!


Introducing Brynn

My name is Brynn Puppe, I am an intern and Williams College student and for the foreseeable future I will be doing my best to shed light on the new realm of learning that has arrived with the pandemic. In this new blog series, I plan to unpack the difficulties and triumphs of the various forms of learning that have emerged within the pandemic through interviews and conversations with educators, as well as students and parents about their own experiences. In our ever changing existence it is important to acknowledge the shifts that are made at the core of our country- in our schools. 

While addressing all of the academic issues that come along with COVID I will also address the inherent shift in every human’s fragile reality that comes with something as tragic and looming as a pandemic. Learning styles and settings are obviously varying from the past, but so is the sense of safety and security that came with a world not experiencing a pandemic. This, like almost every issue in the American school system, is disproportionally affecting students of lower socioeconomic statuses as well as students of color. When addressing the academic issues that come with this pandemic, it would be foolish to deny the role that financial status and race plays in the success of students, especially during these times. This gap exists in every moment for these students and the pandemic only amplifies it. I hope that through these writings we can all obtain a greater understanding not only of schools during a pandemic, but education as a whole. 

Thank you for the taking the time to read, and please feel free to leave any comments and questions below!


Why “Outermost”?

Independent schools have a habit of focusing a fair bit of resources on values and mission. We might call them pillars, or guiding principles, or essential elements, or some other lofty variation. There is nothing wrong with living by a clearly defined set of values, or of boldly stating a community’s mission or purpose (yes, we have a mission too!) In fact, these carefully wordsmithed statements become a bond which, when used well, tie together an independent school community across curricula, departments, and decades. 

Yet, we might also see that we create our own limits when we live and work in such a neatly defined manner. What a definition of purpose delivers with details may, on the flip side of that same coin, limit in our perspective. 

Perspective – the stepping back and taking in of a broader understanding of the community experience – requires both attention to detail and the allowance of space for new ideas. So, why “Outermost”? Well, for a perhaps overly bookish reason, of course. (Afterall, I was an English major.)

Henry Beston’s 1928 book “The Outermost House”, the inspiration for our firm’s name, is all about getting perspective. Beston, a naturalist, spent a year living in a tiny shack in the dunes of Eastham, MA – our home and the founding place of OES. He wrote about the vast natural world around him, laying out in great detail the minute actions of foxes and fish alike, while at the same time reflecting on the society he left behind. Like Thoreau before him, Beston finds his perch overlooking the Atlantic to be a “neutral ground” from which he might consider the world at large. In focusing on the minutia of the dunes, the forest, and the sea, Beston found room for a fresh perspective. 

So here I sit on that same stretch of sandbar, nearly 100 years later, sifting through a different set of details – the particulars of boarding school life – in the pursuit of perspective.