I have seen several posts online recently about how March feels like the “never-ending” month. Today, March has finally come to an end, and we begin the month of April, which is likely to bring many of the same challenges as March did alongside some new ones. My hope is that we are able to see and recognize the powerful moments of beauty, joy, and new learning beside the struggles we also will face.
For the past two weeks, GVP staff have been piloting asynchronous and synchronous online learning classes using Google Classroom and Hangouts. Last week, students and teachers met to check-in and chat and to discuss previously assigned work. Students were given printed packets and new iPads on Monday, March 16 — our last day of in-person school together. We sent students home with two weeks’ worth of work, not knowing then what might happen; but that packet work has provided our teachers with time to develop new methods for remote learning and a new virtual GVP model for education. This week our teaching faculty is rolling out a holistic school schedule for students that includes time for social group meetings, math, ELA, science, social studies, music, drama and movement with Playmaking for Girls, counseling, physical fitness, and study hall support. I am so incredibly proud of our teaching team and their continued commitment to providing students with an excellent education.
GVP has always been a “high touch” model. We focus on relationships, human interactions, and individualized attention and support. Imagining ways of taking this model online has been a challenge and stretch for us, but one that our superhero staff has met with an exceptional level of creativity, collaboration, flexibility, patience, and perseverance. Our students have also been forced to take up new routines, new ways of learning, and new challenges. As newcomers to the US, they have already had to learn so much; they have worked hard to adapt and embrace a new life, language, and ways of learning. Now, everything has shifted for them again. They have to find new footing in a virtual school model amid a huge health and economic crisis. While this is certainly a very real challenge, our incredible counselor reminded me today, “They can do it! We just have to believe in them.” I was deeply grateful for her perspective and know she is right. These young women are resilient, strong, capable, and committed learners. They can do it!
I am deeply grateful for new perspectives and possibilities—these are the things that bring me hope in this time. I am learning to appreciate equally what was and what is today. In the midst of this COVID-19 crisis, I have been longing for poetry because for me, poetry is, at its core, most powerful in its ability to enlighten everyday life and lived experiences and engage our hearts in new ways of seeing our world. Poetry brings to light the overlooked and unseen and offers new perspectives on the seemingly ordinary. GVP students have participated in Slam Poetry units with acclaimed Atlanta poet, Theresa Davis, through Alliance Theater Education. In one Dream Poem, a Form 3 graduating student wrote, “In my world, people will be helpful, no hate. All people will be like family, loving each other.” I am thankful for her hope and for the possibilities she dreams for our future and everyday life in her poetry. One of our GVP alumnae, a Gates Millennial Scholar and current Agnes Scott senior, wrote an award winning poem, “Beloved Stream.” In her poem, she describes the beauty of the fishing stream in her memories of home, and you can read it on our website here.
This week, I saw a reporter talking on TV about the dramatic reduction in air pollution over China since the COVID-19 outbreak. There have been several articles published about this worldwide forced experiment in social distancing and pollution reduction and about what that might mean in terms of cleaner air and climate change. The CNN reporter I watched talked about how the evidence we could clearly see from China offered hope that reversing climate change on a large, global scale is absolutely possible. He pointed out that if such a difference could be made in only two short weeks, then we could potentially see transformative change for the entire world—IF we were to use the lessons learned and work together to sustain that change. Listening to him and looking at the NASA pictures taken above China started me thinking about what is possible if we pay attention in these times, embrace change, take on new perspectives, and look for lessons that might be learned.
I have committed to crafting these Head of School blogs so that I can share some of the lessons learned at GVP during this time. But also, I want to share with you some of the beautiful moments and joy that I find in our global village. I invite you today to see and hear our amazing Ms. Elise as she leads our GVP students in a round of movement and song. This video was recorded at one of our annual Decatur Library Musical Bookings events: https://elisewitt.com/web/in-these-times/. Their words offer us all encouragement and hope for the lessons, beauty, and joy that will come now and in any moment if we are open.
“In these times, in these uncertain times, I will remain open to the miracle that is each moment.”