Departments prepare for distance learning

Speculations continue to abound within Haverford’s halls and social media feeds—rumors regarding the school’s closure due to coronavirus concerns spread almost as fast as the virus itself. Prospects of closing the physical school has evoked mixed emotions. Some wish to not miss spring sports or school events, some yearn for the time off from school, and some are simply ambivalent. But, as many students may suspect, no matter what happens, the learning will continue.

     Haverford is not alone behind the decision to close school, as local health authorities have overruling discretion over the school’s status. Such ambiguity has raised many questions from students — how exactly will classes proceed?

     On Tuesday, March 10, Dr. Nagl announced the cancellation of student conferences in favor of holding a “day of Distance Learning Professional Development for the faculty and staff.” 

     “Teachers are being given instruction on how to conduct distance learning classes, and we are testing these systems both during the school day and in the evenings,” reads the announcement. Chances are, you’ve already experienced the testing firsthand, with teachers experimenting online resources like Google Meet, an online video chat service.

     Just as students have been anticipating the possibility of a closure, teachers have begun brainstorming ideas on how to continue curricula. Despite the possibility of curriculum disruption, many teachers are enthusiastic about exploring this new frontier of online schooling. 

“I’m hoping it’ll be an interesting experiment.”

History Department Chair Ms. Hannah Turlish

    “I’m hoping it’ll be an interesting experiment,” said History Department Chair Ms. Hannah Turlish. “I can be an engaging lecturer for twenty minutes and have someone watch it at home and then, you know, do some work remotely.”

     English department chair Mr. Thomas Stambaugh said, “There’s a part of me that’s excited about this challenge, if ‘excited’ is the right word. It’s sort of like building a fort in your backyard — doing some unusual new thing. But then I’m also struck by the complexity of it with over 400 students in the upper school.”

     While English and history are subjects that may lend themselves more towards distance learning, other classes may be more difficult to have online. “Students can certainly read and write on their own, and teachers can come in and run discussions from afar,” Mr. Stambaugh said. 

     “It will be a challenge because we do a lot of hands-on work and learn through experimentation working with different materials,” said Art Department Chair Mr. Christopher Fox. “The accessibility of materials for students to work with especially is limited.”

     Despite this, the art department has had no trouble creating unique solutions to these problems — creativity is their forte after all.

     “So one of our ideas is that a new challenge or problem to solve could be described, and we could engage remotely in doing research and brainstorming and sketching and cataloging that, so that when we come back from being away for a little bit we would have some ideas ready to go,” Mr. Fox said. 

     Woodworking instructor Mr. Greg Ressler has plans to utilize Minecraft to explore architectural design, while others have ideas to utilize online programs like Tinkercad or Adobe suite applications.

“We’re trying to be clever, trying to be creative. That’s our job.”

Art Department Chair Mr. Chris Fox

     “We’re trying to be clever, trying to be creative. That’s our job,” Mr. Fox said.

     The consensus amongst teachers is that everything will be fine, and education will prevail. Most departments are already familiar with using online resources like Canvas — the math department looks to continue using OneNote, while language and science departments are confident using Canvas and online educational videos.

     “I know the teachers can handle it—it will take some flexibility and getting used to and adapting to a new situation for the students and the teachers, but this is how businesses are run these days,” said Language department chair Mr. Poolman.

     Sixth Former Charlie Baker said, “If both the students and the teachers buy into it, I’m sure it can be just as good as real class.”

Author: Daniel Chow '20

Daniel Chow is a managing editor of the newspaper, previously serving as the assistant editor of the Features section. His article “Basketball reflects on historic season” earned a SIlver Key from the 2020 Philadelphia-area Scholastic Writing competition. Chow is a member of the Haverford VEX Robotics Team 169 "The Cavalry" as well as the school's Model UN, squash, and debate team. His favorite subjects are Math and English. Outside of school, he enjoys chess and cooking.