In Lower and Upper School, the consensus was that tests, midterms, and final exams should be replaced by more flexible and engaging assessments of understanding this spring. In Upper School, final exam week was replaced by an assignment for each student to create a digital portfolio. Students selected an assignment from each core class and three of their “specials” (such as world language, art, and music) and explained how each assignment met the course objectives as well as how the students demonstrated traits such as creative problem-solving and perseverance.
“The portfolio project emphasized the importance of skill development as well as habits of mind," says Julie, noting that this was a particularly apt mode of assessment in a term when students' independence, organization, time management skills, perseverance, and creativity were challenged as never before.
Support and Connection
The web of connection might have been stretched across the Fay community this spring, but it remained steady and strong. In Primary School, the traditional weekly events of Primary School Morning Meeting, Class Morning Meetings, and Stars of the Week continued. Katie Knuppel also added new opportunities for students to connect, like weekly one- on-one check-ins with teachers and the Primary School Book Club, which met on Mondays at lunchtime. "Throughout the spring, we have emphasized our strength as a community and the fact that the teachers are here to support all our students," says Katie.
Each Wednesday, Lower School students still gathered for their Morning Meeting with the usual routines of observing a moment of silence, followed by students updating the group on the news from their grade and sharing what they were wondering and noticing. This spring, the “I wonder” questions far outnumbered the “I notice” statements. "If I have learned anything from this, it's how much kids need to be heard," says Lainie. "Sometimes I'll call on kids in Morning Meeting who haven’t raised their hand, and even if they say, 'I don't know,' that's okay—because I want their voices to be heard.”
Upper School students still gathered for Morning Meetings twice a week and within their advisory groups twice a week. Faculty members offered multiple drop-in times throughout the week, and students were encouraged to attend a weekly drop- in session for each class. While faculty members were diligent in reaching out to students, students were also encouraged to reach out to each other. During one drop-in, Sarah urged students to think of a classmate that other kids might not be reaching out to and to check in. "The students knew exactly what I was talking about," she says.
And even though they hadn't been together in several months, on one spring evening, 20 out of 27 students from the Dining Hall Dorm were logged in with Director of Residential Life Max Bogaert and their dorm parents to hang out, just like they would on campus. "Students need that social contact," says Sarah. "They need to remember that even though we're far away, we’re still here to support them."
While everyone is looking forward to returning to the regular rhythms and routines of life on the Fay campus, faculty and administrators agree that many elements of this experience will undoubtedly shape the Fay community moving forward. "The faculty’s understanding of and comfort with new tech tools has grown significantly,” notes Katie Knuppel. “They have been energized by the range of creative possibilities.” And students will also be returning to school next year with enhanced technology skills that they can apply to their learning.
However, some things won't—and shouldn't—change. Recently, some Primary School students voiced their concerns to Katie that the introduction of distance learning meant that students would never miss school again. "I told them that I think some things will go back to the way they used to be," she laughs. "I think we'll have another snow day again."