A Message from the Head of the Upper Division
I write this greeting at a time when, like all other schools across the nation, we are still uncertain as to what the future holds due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the absence of its usual daily bustle, our campus has felt incomplete for the past four months, and we eagerly await the day we can safely return to more normal routines.
In the spring of 2020, as we planned for the transition to online learning, these familiar questions were at the front of our minds—along with a new one unique to this moment: how can we continue to be the school we want to be, and one that our students and families need us to be, when we can’t all be physically present? Throughout the spring semester, with a combination of real-time and recorded activities to engage students dispersed around the world, Stevenson students continue to learn in the company of others, engage each other in discussion, collaborate on group projects and receive individual support from their teachers, just as they did when on campus. They continue to make art, play music and connect with teammates, and still have full access to learning specialists, college counselors, emotional support counseling and academic advising. Even when we could not do these things in the same physical space, we knew that it was more important than ever to provide a holistic education, and to be a source of normalcy and familiar routine in an unfamiliar world.
We made this transition in a matter of days, and we continually refined our approach as we learned how best to teach remotely. We sought feedback from students and their parents, and adapted as needed. While we are proud of how we navigated the spring, we know we can be better still, given time to first reflect on what we learned, and then to apply this knowledge to our planning for the fall. That work is happening now: our teaching teams are collaborating on curriculum throughout the summer, sharing their successes from the spring and developing an outstanding learning experience in the fall, whatever the circumstances we and our students find ourselves in.
We remain committed to our vision of school life being more than listening passively to lectures, completing worksheets, and taking tests. While online learning can never fully replace the richness of being together in classes, on the athletic fields, in art studios, on stage, in the dorms, or simply in each other’s company on a beautiful campus, we will work tirelessly to make the coming school year an inspiring and meaningful experience.
The “empty vessel” model of education—where students are containers to be passively filled with knowledge through lecture, and assessed on their ability to recall facts held impermanently in short term memory—has long been rejected as a result of our increasing understanding of how people learn. It would, therefore, be a mistake to revert to this model—despite it being the easiest response to the challenge posed by COVID-19. We remain committed to our vision of school life being more than listening passively to lectures, completing worksheets, and taking tests. While online learning can never fully replace the richness of being together in classes, on the athletic fields, in art studios, on stage, in the dorms, or simply in each other’s company on a beautiful campus, we will work tirelessly to make the coming school year an inspiring and meaningful experience.
We are all navigating an unprecedented moment in history, one that will continue to test us all in ways both known and unknown. We also know that this is a singular moment in time, and in the wise words of my grandmother, “this too shall pass.” When it does, we will return to this idyllic part of the world, in the forest by the ocean, and our students will be ready for whatever comes next. When we next gather together, we will have an even greater appreciation of the fellowship that is integral to being a part of the Stevenson community.
Information about our current planning for the fall semester can be found here. Please take a deep dive into these materials, and the rest of our website, in order to learn more about our School—both in its current iteration and what it will soon again be.
We wish you and your loved ones peace and good health. We look forward to seeing you in person soon.
Dr. Dan Griffiths
Head of the Upper Division