Scott Fechhen we shared our newest Strategic Design with the WT community last fall, there was no way to know what this academic year had in store for us. Excited about the strategic areas of focus that we had articulated, I knew then that we were setting a bold path forward to Reimagine Learning and to Rethink Time and Space.

With this in mind, I was eager to dedicate an entire issue of Thistletalk to the idea of “Breaking Boundaries”–one of the tenets of our Philosophy of Teaching and Learning which is so deeply connected to these strategic areas. The feature story provides examples of how we do this in each division. And, the overview of the second phase of our City as Our Campus℠ research reveals the impact that our unique approach to community-based learning has on students, specifically their orientation toward social justice.

Of course, all of this took on a brand new meaning and, more importantly, urgency in the final months of the school year.

As a result of the global pandemic and the need for social distancing, WT was forced to pivot immediately into an e-learning mode. With boundaries not just broken but shattered, we developed an engaging learning plan which balanced the social-emotional development children need with the academic rigor and project-based learning for which WT is known.

And while I wish we had been able to complete the school year physically back together at “dear old WT,” our sudden shift provided us a real opportunity to forge ahead with our vision of what it means to educate young people today and into the future. Learning remotely can never replace the day-to-day interactions that make WT special. The relationships that exist among teachers, students, and parents, the informal hallway conversations, and the dynamic of a classroom can never be replicated online. I cannot help but think, though, that layering in a hybrid approach of in-person instruction with e-learning can only enhance the learning experience for students, allowing us to achieve even more than we thought was possible.

   

This is a transformational moment for us if we allow it to be.

What has been happening in education across the country, indeed the world, over the last few months is nothing short of miraculous. There has been no single moment that has done more to transform how we think about teaching and learning than recent events. This sudden shift is not the way organizations naturally work. These sorts of major shifts happen after months and perhaps years of study and planning.

At some point, we will be back together on campus again and with our Lower School North and City Campuses joined together. We will be stronger and wiser in our approach. The question before us is whether or not we will allow this experience to advance and enhance our approach to teaching and learning or allow ourselves to settle back into our familiar routines. It must be the former. This is a transformational moment for us if we allow it to be. As a community, we must embrace a growth mindset while we review, reflect, and revise how we are approaching our work. We must redefine what it means to break boundaries. And we will need your support to do that. After all, we are WT and together, there are no limits to what we can achieve.

Thank you for your continued support as we navigate these challenging times.