The COVID-19 Pandemic: Faculty Reflections on Resilience and Growth
McCallie Communications Office
Bill Jamieson holds his class outside

English teacher Bill Jamieson frequently held his class discussions outside. 

 

Simply put, resilience is the ability to adapt to difficult situations. The word resilience was derived from the Latin word ‘resilire’ which means to recoil or rebound. Finding oneself in a difficult situation can lead some to get stuck in the shock and flood of negative emotions. People with resilience, however, process through adversity with a strong sense of personal responsibility and self-confidence. And they bring others along with them because their positivity is attractive and contagious. 

During this school year, McCallie faculty and staff have embodied resilience like never before. They have shown their true strength, courage, and commitment to serving the boys of McCallie in spite of the unsettling and unpredictable circumstances of the year. They supported one another, dug deep, and adapted to ever-evolving pandemic circumstances. They used their creativity and resilience to shift their teaching and other practices online when needed, and they continued to teach boys online and in person at the same time throughout the year. Without fail, they displayed their deep commitment to the ideals of McCallie and to the bonds that unify our strong community. It is the people at McCallie who make the learning and growing experiences transformative. We are so fortunate to have this strong group of adults working with McCallie’s boys. We are grateful for the people they are and the work that they do.

Faculty always have a lot to manage but this past year demanded more. Toward the end of the school year, as we were starting to see some light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, we gathered a few reflections from faculty about their experiences and resilience, about what sustains their positive outlook, and, generally, about what they have learned in this unique year.

 

Kathaleen Hughes
Upper School English Teacher, Learning Center Specialist

Perhaps one of the more positive results caused by COVID restrictions occurred in the Learning Center. The students who had typically enjoyed grabbing a snack or playing a video game during their free periods instead wandered outside with their friends, lounging in the fabulous blue Adirondack chairs scattered around campus. The Learning Center became the hub for those students who genuinely wanted help with their assignments. The serious atmosphere proved contagious. Boys arrived prepared to work purposefully on essays and assignments, and they asked intentional questions regarding their work. In short, many boys developed a stronger sense of their own learning styles, taking ownership of their education in new and beneficial ways.

 

Carson Murphy
Chinese Teacher, Upper School Dorm Advisor

Every year I work to become a better teacher, and this year has been no different. I shifted my curriculum to be more online-based so that students can engage with the content whether they are in the room with me or not. I frequently try out new things based on ideas I have or that I’ve read. My students know that we will adjust if the idea doesn't work out. A lot of the new ideas I have been trying this year are ways to incorporate Zoom students into class more effectively. It’s been a good learning experience!

 

Dan Wadley
Bible Teacher, Mock Trial Advisor

Mock Trial is a competition that simulates a real trial. Adrenaline and anxiety are part of the competitive experience. Because of the pandemic restrictions, our Mock Trial competition format was totally new to all of us. Once we learned of the new format, the team decided to make it through the best that we could. We practiced using the new video conference format among our four teams online several times to be as prepared as possible when we competed with other schools. Of course, apprehension was there, but familiarity with the technology and process was not. We all enjoyed the competition, but we all agreed that we cannot wait for the competition to take place in the real courtroom next year. 

 

Trey Tucker ’98
English Teacher, Associate Director of Counseling

Looking back over the last year, I realized that the pandemic has provided me with some new insights about supporting students in the classroom and beyond. For me, our pandemic conditions underscored the truth that connection is king. Students told me, both in word and deed, how much they missed in-person interactions during quarantine. Online interactions, whether on Zoom or social media, were repeatedly exposed as empty promises which fell short of the real thing of people connecting face-to-face, heart-to-heart. Students, like all of us, thrive within the context of a relational environment with palpable, in-person contact.

 

Holly Deeds
Physics Teacher

There were a lot of challenges this school year. Trying to be fair to the one or two students in each class who were at home on any given day while also giving a good experience to the great majority of students who attended in person was a tough balancing act. I spent a lot of time last summer attending online seminars and researching available simulations so that I would be able to offer all students some experimental lab experiences. Because we were working on the assumption that we needed to keep the students 6-feet apart at all times, these types of experiments were essentially the only kind of experiments we did in the fall semester. We moved the hands-on discovery-based experiments normally performed in the fall to the second semester in hopes that we would be better able to work together at that point in time. This worked out pretty well because I had enough equipment for each student in the class to work on his own, and then discuss his observations with classmates nearby. The one course in which I had a year-long virtual student was much tougher to deal with when we started doing hands-on experiments.

My virtual student had to “participate” with his classmates virtually by being in a Zoom breakout room, watching on FaceTime, or watching me do demonstration experiments for the whole class via Zoom. It was not a perfect solution, but it provided the best possible experience for the largest number of students. And we all got through it together. 

 

Matt Allen
7th Grade Science Teacher 

I was really surprised in the beginning of the pandemic at how many opportunities teaching over Zoom created for close, personal interactions with my students. Students would often jump into my Zoom class early, which allowed some time for one-on-one conversations that can be harder to come by during the busy school day. In addition to these opportunities, I often put small groups of students into Zoom's breakout sessions where I could move from session to session and have uninterrupted conversations with groups of two or three boys. Zoom really opened a window into these boys’ lives away from school that teachers do not usually get to see.

Matt Allen teaches students both in-person and virtually


 

David Vining
7th Grade Mathematics Teacher

At the beginning of the pandemic, setting up the technology was intimidating. I had never even heard of Zoom. Seventh grade science teacher Matt Allen was very helpful assisting me in getting my Zoom classes set up. I made mistakes teaching with Zoom, but I got better. My students gave me suggestions that were very helpful, and I'm so glad that I already had relationships established before we switched over to online classes. 8th grade math teacher LaShandra Rivers saved my life by teaching me how to grade assignments on Google Classroom using my iPad. The first major test that I had to grade was taking me forever until I called her and learned from her expertise. 

One practice that I was already doing pre-pandemic and will continue is making videos where I explain and model working out my students’ homework assignments. When class ends, students can still receive help and teaching from me by using those teaching videos. This practice takes the fear of math away, and it takes away any excuses for a student to say that he didn’t do his homework because he didn’t understand how to do it.