Dear St. Albans Parents:
I hope you and your families remain safe and healthy. As promised, I am planning to write at the beginning of each week of distance learning to provide updates on how the life of our new virtual school community is progressing. I want you to know that I’m thinking about you and your boys and am deeply proud of how they have risen to the challenges placed before them.
Our virtual chapel services have been among the most meaningful moments we’ve experienced since we returned from spring break. As one of my colleagues recently commented, the success of our virtual chapels has affirmed that we can find a way to be together – and to sustain a sense of community – even when circumstances require that we be physically apart. We had another wonderful and moving Upper School chapel service Monday morning, with Luke Harmon ’22 offering a homily on fear, love, and the importance of being kind and tolerant. “It’s in our control to embrace each other during these trying times,” said Luke. “While it has been difficult to live with this hazy uncertainty for the past couple of weeks, we should look to turn this bad situation into the best time by being good to each other as members of our own family but also more globally as members of the human family.”
This past week, our boys have done just this. I can’t tell you enough how wonderful they have been and how much their presence and joy, even in difficult times, has buoyed our spirits and reminded so many of us why we chose to work in this extraordinary school community.
This week will be another week of firsts. Our Upper School assembly, held this morning, featured our writer in residence, David Schwartz, sharing for the first time a recording of him reading his work. We are hosting our first virtual parent meetings, starting with the College Counseling Office meeting with junior parents today followed by Mr. Chandler and other Lower School leaders meeting with Form I parents tomorrow. This week I will start having virtual “lunches” with small groups of seniors, and I plan to continue that until I’ve shared a meal with all 76 boys. (My office will be reaching out to the seniors to make the arrangements.) I’m also planning to visit some zoom classes, simulating virtually what it would be like to walk through True-Lucas or Marriott Hall to say hello to the boys and their teachers, letting them know how proud I am of their work and the generous, positive spirit they have brought to these challenging times. I hope I can do the same with rehearsals and coach’s workouts as we move forward.
Over spring break, we attempted to create an entirely new way of teaching and learning online. We know this will be an iterative process. The more experience our teachers and our boys acquire, the better we will become at distance learning. Gathering feedback from our community is essential to this effort. To this end, we’re working on a survey for parents, faculty, and students about our virtual learning plan – what you think is working well and what we might want to adjust. We hope to send that out next week, once we’ve all had some time to live into this new routine.
As George Clessuras ’22 shared with us last week in a recorded Upper School chapel talk: “While the flow of life as usual has been disrupted, we must grow a greater appreciation for the very facets of everyday life that we are challenged to avoid: small businesses, professional sports, concerts, freedom to go downtown, our athletic competitions, the ability to convene as a school community. Ultimately, when coronavirus subsides, and life as usual prevails, we must enjoy these things as gifts, not as givens, like never before.”
As George reminds us, the events of the past month have transformed our perspective in powerful ways. As we find the “givens” of our everyday life suddenly taken away from us, we can now see them more deeply and more poignantly for the gifts they truly are. I am grateful now more than ever for the gift of your support, goodwill, and the privilege of educating your sons, whose grace and humanity at this challenging moment remind us why we exist as a school.