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Head of School Update

Following guidance from the State of Wyoming and Teton County School District, JH Classical Academy will continue our virtual learning program through Friday, May 15.  While we are hoping to return to school for face-to-face learning and our end-of-year celebrations, we await guidance from our public health officials.  Our Academy is small and nimble, so we will be able to adjust our plans according to what is deemed optimal for the good and safety of all in our community.

While this is a stressful time, I’ve been so impressed with how teachers and families have adjusted to a completely new online learning platform and paradigm.  Our faculty are still teaching, and our students are still learning. Through Zoom, a significant amount of content is being transferred by teachers and received by students who are eager to connect and work through new ideas and material. The relationships built and habits formed in the first seven months of in-classroom learning set the foundation for a rather seamless transition to a virtual classroom, even though in-person interactions are greatly missed. 
Teachers know their students at JH Classical Academy, and students know our expectations for learning.  The protocol for virtual learning hasn’t changed much from in-person learning.  Students wear uniforms; teachers wear ties.  Students are ready to learn; teachers deliver meaningful lessons. Students raise their hand; teachers lead discussions.  Students are evaluated; teachers offer support.  Students are responsible; teachers are accountable.  When homework is not passed in or class is disrupted, teachers inform parents to determine what will alter such behavior and help the student become successful.  Fundamentally, what we are doing hasn’t changed, although important indirect learning opportunities are lost online.  
 
Aristotle taught us that “excellence is not an action, but a habit.” Spontaneous acts of good character do surface in crisis, but when the sprint turns into a marathon it becomes a matter of endurance.  Endurance is doing what we were trained to do, what is right and necessary, even under pressure.  Parents haven’t been able to fully protect children from fear, anger, or pain during this world-wide pandemic, which arrived out of our control and changed our daily life rather dramatically.  However, you have chosen to put your children in a school community that supports our universal need to build habits of attention, self-control, and integrity in order to endure, and even thrive, during difficulty when creatively turning hardship into something good.
 
Although I have personally adjusted to the new normal, by intentionally creating the needed spaces and schedules, I’m finding that after Zooming most of the day I’m more tired than usual.  When we gather in person, our bodies are able to “say” things through non-verbal cues that we don’t have to “think” about otherwise.  Our teachers are chosen for their ability to be models, guides, and mentors of students because so much learning is transferred through actions over words. When working through an on-line platform, our “thinking” brain is compelled to make up for what our “body” normally communicates through eye contact, tone of voice, body language, facial expressions, timing of speech, intensity of response, or physical touch.  Our unconscious bodies work to love and be loved, to know and be known, even without the use of words.  The challenge of working to convey more of what makes us human through the channel of zoom is taxing. Therefore, it makes sense to be more tired at the end of a virtual day.  
 
Consequently, we are making Friday, May 1st an “Off-Screen Day of Learning." It is a day to focus on movement, connect with others, and catch up on our studies. Students will have a day with no virtual lessons to pursue the optional art, music, chess, and PE offerings with parents at their leisure.  Perhaps students could recite poetry memorized earlier this year?  Faculty will have a day to prepare lessons and copy new learning packets.  Movement is needed.  I’ve added a standing desk to my room and take a walk with one of my children every day to combat the fatigue of screens.  This Friday, everyone can put down their devices, get outside, breathe deeply, and set their legs in motion for a very long walk.  We are so blessed to be quarantined in the beauty and spaciousness of Wyoming.
 
Enjoy our new series on “The Art of Teaching” which further explains my reflections today!
 
With appreciation,
 
 
Mrs. Polly J. Friess
Head of School
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Jackson Hole Classical Academy
P.O. Box 7466
Jackson, WY 83002
 
Enrollment Inquiries:
Polly Friess
(307) 690-8396
 
All Other Inquiries:
School Office
(307) 201-5040
 
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