The Darlington School is known for its annual traditions and creative learning opportunities.
However, as COVID-19 has changed the education landscape in the last few months, Darlington teachers have had to adapt their traditions. Over the summer, the teachers prepared for a school year like no other under COVID-19 guidelines and precautions.
“Teaching and learning is at the heart of our college-preparatory program, and we’ve put into place a new set of course standards and lesson templates to create a more consistent and productive learning environment for students, whether they are in the classroom or not,” Head of School Brent Bell said.
In addition to providing teachers with iPads and Apple TVs to help engage distance and in-person learners collectively, the Academic Resources Center created a five-part virtual professional development series to help with hybrid teaching strategies.
One example of teachers adapting to these unusual circumstances is Choir Director Ben McVety.
“It’s not every day I get to put together a video presentation of my concert choir to show the entire Darlington community,” he said. “I have COVID-19 to thank for that.”
McVety’s students recorded the audio of Andy Beck’s “In the Dark of Midnight” in groups of four, each with their own microphone, which allowed in-person and distance learners to be part of the performance. Then, he spent approximately 30 hours mixing and mastering the audio, recording the video portion with students two at a time and synching the prerecorded audio to the video tracks. The final product can be viewed at darlingtonschool.org/choir.
“Despite it being a bit time-intensive, we had a great time shooting this project,” McVety said. “I have received a ton of positive comments and my students were really happy with the outcome.”
Middle grades science teacher Steph Bradshaw said iPads have been vital for teachers to make online learners feel connected to daily life at Darlington.
“On the first day, I had one of my advisees on the iPad and walked the student around Thatcher Hall as we completed our first-day activities,” she said.
At the Upper School, travel restrictions and visa delays meant that many international boarding students did not arrive on campus until after the school year had already begun, and some will be distance learning for the entirety of the first semester.
“The school has prepared the kids well for the different type of school year they are having, so whether they are online or in person, they’ve come to class ready and excited to learn,” teacher Chandler Cryer said.
Though many things look different this year, students, teachers and parents alike have embraced the challenges.