Faculty orientation at Shulamith High School took on new importance this year. There has never been a pandemic in an age with the internet. There is nothing to look back on for guidance, nothing for teachers to learn about what worked and what did not. Instead, returning educators must set the precedents and write the stories future history textbooks will tell. SHS teachers returned after a summer of instructional videos which were a part of weekly e-mails, each with a theme aimed at preparing to teach during COVID-19. After polling teachers, sessions were created to ensure faculty members were as prepared as possible.
After welcoming new and returning faculty, Mrs. Sara Munk opened the first day of faculty orientation by outlining the goals for the year using the “5 C’s:” Commitment, Community, Creativity, Collaboration, and Calm, reminding everyone of important themes for the year. Over the course of two days, SHS faculty attended in-person and virtual sessions that focused on the social emotional health of students as well as pedagogy in a physically distant classroom. Dr. Pelcovitz gave a riveting webinar on the effects of COVID on students, and Rachel Tuchman led a workshop on fostering teacher–student connections with COVID barriers. Mrs. Channi Packer, SHS’s beloved social worker, discussed the importance of self-care with teachers, validating feelings and giving practical suggestions to help keep calm in chaotic times.
To discuss how to best help students improve their critical thinking skills, faculty members led their own sessions. Dr. Dora Haar presented to the science and math departments on Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL), a student-centered pedagogy. POGIL takes place in a structured environment where students work cooperatively (physically distanced) in self-managed teams of three or four. Limudei kodesh teachers had the opportunity to learn from Mrs. Miriam Lerner the best ways of chavruta learning while remaining physically distant. Mrs. Lerner discussed practical ways of enhancing higher order thinking skills. In addition, teachers practiced different ways of chavruta learning in a “pandemic classroom” and talked about the advantages and disadvantages of each. Meanwhile, humanities teachers were treated to a session with Mrs. Tamara Klein. Mrs. Klein led a collaborative workshop on the unified writing curriculum and goals, streamlining the process of writing for students. In the auditorium, a projector allowed everyone to see Mrs. Rachel Dratch, from PRIZMAH, who gave an incredible webinar on student-centered learning in a physically distant class. Teachers were grateful for the practical and uncomplicated strategies that were shared.
Finally, SHS staff learned about concurrent classrooms. Concurrent classes occur when there are students in the classroom as well as videoconferencing in. They have become quite popular as a result of the need of students who feel healthy but must quarantine for various reasons. SHS is fortunate to have large screens set up in each classroom that allow for students who are home to Zoom into their classes. Teachers learned not only the logistics behind it, but also ways to adjust their lessons so that students on Zoom can feel part of the class. Students feeling included and connected to their classes and teachers is a tenet of Shulamith High School. Faculty was enthusiastic about learning different strategies that will ensure students on Zoom feel included even if they are home. By experiencing content in the same way as students in the classroom, and having a clear visual view and audio, students at home will feel as included as possible from their workspace at home.
Before the second day ended, teachers were reminded that “not all heroes wear capes.” Heroes are ordinary people who rise to the occasion in unordinary circumstances. To stress that point, SHS faculty members were given 2020 survival kits, each bag with a cape, and a poem stressing that their commitment, efforts, and positivity are noticed and appreciated. Though we live in unknown times, one thing is known: SHS is lucky to have such a phenomenal and well-prepared faculty.
Senior Retreat and Movie Night
Social distancing does not stop SHS director of student activities Ms. Esty Munk from creating and executing incredible student programming! Before the school year even began, masked seniors took a trip to Connecticut’s “Empower Adventure Center.” It was a full day of physically distant team-building and connecting, where seniors had an opportunity to step out of their comfort zones in preparation for their role as leaders at SHS. Principal Mrs. Sara Munk opened the day with the importance of modeling behavior and being leaders in the school, setting examples for younger students. SHS seniors laughed as they participated in activities that had hidden meaning, and left with a deeper understanding of problem-solving and rising to the occasion. Afterward, students were pushed out of their comfort zones as they traversed difficult ropes courses, relying on each other for support and themselves for action.
The day did not stop there. That same evening, the entire school was invited to an outdoor movie in the Shulamith yard. Each grade was given their own tent, with hanging outdoor lights, and a table of individual snack bags. Shulamith Shark masks were given out and worn as SHS administrators and faculty welcomed students “home.” Students sat on the ground on their new SHS blanket and enjoyed the movie while reuniting with friends and teachers. It was an awesome night, with freshmen showing up an hour early for team-building and pizza.
SHS is grateful to dean of students Mrs. Ricky Gaerman; Ms. Esty Munk; and the 2020 GO — president Ellyana Pilevsky, vice president Adina Zelcer, and secretary Mindy Kail — for all their hard work coming up with and carrying out physically distant but fun activities, Ms. Millie Gittleman for ensuring the space and tech were prepared, and Ms. Nikki Feerst and Mrs. Ally Mishkoff for setting up the tables, food, and swag. With such an incredible night before school, the tone has been set for another awesome year at SHS!