STS Blog

A Deeper Look into STS' Remote Learning Program
Dr. Kirk Wheeler, Head of School

In a recent blog post I shared an overview of the components and structure of our Remote Learning program. I'd like to dig a little deeper and cover the "why" behind our program.

In the following blog, I outline our four guiding principles and the connection they have to the elements offered in our Remote Learning program. I hope you walk away from this post with a better understanding of why we structured remote learning this way. We are proud of the curriculum we provide our students on campus and are committed to offering a remote learning program that embody these principles and further our mission and vision.

In a time of hardships and unknown, I want to remind you that true learning and improvement happens when we are charting new territories and facing the discomfort that comes along with trying and failing. In our ongoing response to COVID-19, I have tried to embrace our hallmark of "Edgework," as I remain steadfast to learning and deeply committed to creating the best learning environment for our community.

Although we do not yet have clarity on what the start of the 2020-21 school year will look like, I am confident we will provide the learning experience our alumni and school community treasures.

Below is an overview of our Remote Learning Program through the lens of STS' four guiding principles.

1. Curriculum with Coherence

Our Remote Learning program is shaped by our teachers' and leadership team's years of experience in education and child development. Though the delivery of our curriculum in remote learning instruction is different, our curriculum is not. We are dedicated to the academic rigor that students and parents expect from STS; however, we also recognize that a new appreciation and tolerance for flexibility is necessary.

To help students thrive, we have designed a variety of formats of both synchronous and asynchronous instruction. In face-to-face classroom settings, we prioritize developmental needs and adjust length and format of each lesson accordingly. This is why our preschool students work in synchronous lessons for a minimum of 45 minutes per week, while 4th graders take part in at least 120 minutes of synchronous work per day. Middle school students, who are ready for more independent work, have more fluidity between synchronous and asynchronous instruction. This coherence is critical to ensure our children are receiving the same quality and quantity of instruction they would receive if they were on campus and at a capacity that is appropriate for their age.

Further, teachers continue to organize core subjects within a framework of cross-disciplinary themes, helping students see connections across subjects. Our teachers continue to integrate five core learning skills throughout the curriculum: technological, social, thinking, research, and self-management. Remote learning offers different opportunities for growth and development, and we work hard to take advantage of each opportunity, whatever the setting.

2. Commitment to Character

Our focus on character, social-emotional growth, and leadership permeates school life. Continuing Chapel in a remote setting was an important milestone in our Remote Learning program. I always wished more parents could witness the powerful character development that our Chapel tradition fosters. One silver lining of remote learning is more of our parents can see the impact this critical hallmark of our curriculum provides to students. If you weren't able to join a remote Chapel session this school year, I strongly encourage you to participate next year whether we're on-campus or remote.

Of course, building character continues well beyond Chapel. Our teachers are designing lessons and activities that encourage students to make connections and engage with their peers and the world around them. The recent and necessary attention to racism and social injustice around the world will continue to make its way into our lessons. The empathy, emotional intelligence, and hunger for action our students demonstrate motivate me daily.

We remain committed to the powerful routines and opportunities that make life at STS special. Though our current setting is virtual, we continue to create space for other activities that help students focus on their goals and values while building a sense of community.

3. A Community of Learners

We want to live our guiding principles at STS, and to do so, we must prioritize and invest in professional development. Our teachers, administration, staff, parents, and students are all in the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills every day.
We are steadfast to a process of reflection, revision, and innovation. Not only will we seek feedback from peer schools at the local, national, and international levels, we will seek feedback from families to gain perspective of each child's individual journey. We value our partnership with families, and we want families to have the flexibility that they need while retaining the high standards of an STS education.

Offering a combination of synchronous and asynchronous instruction provides students the opportunity to work one-on-one with their teachers, peers, and independently. Each family's situation and schedule are unique. Each student's stamina for synchronous or independent learning is different. We are working to ensure make sure our program is adaptive and responsive.
I am also immensely proud of the work Kimberly Mecham has done to further our Center for Leadership & Innovation (CLI) and Social Innovation Course. I am excited to continue integrating programs that unite a community of well-rounded learners and leaders within our remote offerings.

4. Climate for Learning
Shifting to our Remote Learning program mid-semester has taken a lot of work and patience from our entire community. As I mentioned before, I am highly motivated by the grace and strength I've witnessed from our students, our parents and my colleagues. This is a profound journey and I am grateful to be on it with you.

A large part of the learning journey is constant discovery and reflection. Although it may not always feel like it, learning is a joyful experience, and is what brings so many of us together at STS.

Joyful discovery and mindful reflection are pillars of the STS classroom, whether on campus or virtual. We remain committed to instilling that spirit in each lesson we share with your students. At every step, we'll lean into our core virtues: gratitude, tolerance, respect, courage, integrity, responsibility, compassion, perseverance, and generosity.

I can speak for all our faculty, staff, and administration when I say that we desperately miss hearing your children's laughter echo through the halls. However, walls cannot define or contain our community and culture. The relationships and traditions that are the hallmarks of life at STS remain central to our Remote Learning program. I also want to add that our access to some of the best learning tools and technologies is undoubtedly a privilege that enables us to continue our values, regardless of the location.

We are grateful to have your partnership and I am excited to celebrate, honor, and continue to instill the experiences that make an STS education exceptional. Please do not hesitate to reach out if we can answer questions or support you in any way.