By Martin Brown, High School Vice Principal
We, as a TIS school community, are extremely thankful and excited that our Secondary and Elementary students will get to return to classes after an unexpected absence of more than three months. Going from regular classes one week, to uncertainty the next, and then to online classes was tough. Each teacher, student, and family is to be congratulated on how well they embraced the technology and committed to making the transition to online learning work for such an extended period of time. Still, much of what makes our school so great, and the central core of the TIS Advantage, are all the interactions and personal relationships between the teachers, students, and families that develop through our daily activities.
The ability to be able to deliver and receive an education online is a privilege that we do not take lightly. We recognize that each family has had its own unique set of challenges to overcome in order to make the system be successful. Like any new initiative or program, it took some time and valuable feedback from all involved, before we got to a point where everyone across the grade levels felt like we had landed on an appropriate weekly routine. This looked different at each grade level, and, by necessity, required the buy-in from everyone on both sides of the computer screens to make it work. Reassuringly, the response was positive with a great deal of participation and encouragement from our parent groups. As a recent example of this so nicely demonstrated, the high school students taking Multimedia showcased videos that they created in collaboration with the Elementary PE team and in many of the pictures and videos, parents can be seen doing the activities alongside their children. The final result was a memorable and fun shared learning experience.
The school values the time and energy that has been put into every online lesson and we know that the education being delivered has been authentic and valuable. That being said, a school such as TIS is not the same without the people who roam its halls. We are fortunate at the moment to be in a situation where, with the application of appropriate measures as recommended by the government, we are able to safely come back and be together once more.
Having this chance to finish out the year together has many benefits and will give everyone a more tangible sense of closure than we would feel otherwise. First, there is the practical side. Teachers can give summative assessments and determine an appropriate final grade for their classes; books can be returned; personal items from lockers or classrooms can be taken home; and other events, such as graduations and awards ceremonies, that normally happen at the end of the year can be held, albeit in modified, safe formats. Second, there are the goodbyes. Some teachers and staff members are leaving TIS, and some students are leaving TIS as well. This gives us all an opportunity to say goodbye in a meaningful way. However, there are also the goodbyes that will inevitably take place between Elementary students and their classroom teachers as they will be progressing to the next grade only to be taught by someone completely new. It’s hard to say whether or not this is harder for the teacher or the students!
Finally, as the last day of classes in June approaches, there is the palpable sense that the school year is over, the grade has been completed, and the students are finally ready to move forward and progress onwards to new heights. This even applies to our oldest students in Grade 12, who are graduating. They may be facing an uncertain start to their university journey, but they will be moving on and have the tools needed to face the challenges that await them head on. So let us all use this unique occasion to close out the year with gratitude for what we have, excitement for what lies ahead, and appropriate social distancing for safety.
Martin Brown is currently in his fourth year as the High School Vice Principal and his eighth year as a Science/Mathematics teacher at TIS.