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Learning in Action

Reflections on Remote Learning

As a fourth-quarter senior, I’ll admit, the transition to online learning has not been one I would have ever anticipated. My senior classmates and I had been looking forward to these last few weeks of high school for years, and I never would have expected to be spending this time together virtually. However, throughout the process of shaky WiFi and constant Zoom links flooding our inboxes, I believe I have found a greater appreciation for not only St. Agnes, but for my class and faculty as well.

When I first heard that my beloved Academy would be transitioning to remote learning, I was skeptical. I didn’t understand how an entire class could collaborate effectively online, and I was sure my everyday virtual schedule would leave me feeling overwhelmed. I missed my friends and teachers, and I thought seeing them through a screen every day would only make me feel worse.

However, I could not have been more wrong.

My school is the best school because it adapts to challenges. I wake up every day and my routine is different, yet I am genuinely excited to log on and see everyone. My teachers have been supportive and encouraging throughout the process, and we have learned to navigate the virtual world together—as a class, as a student body, as a school. Sure, there have been a few technological mishaps, but throughout it all, we are being made stronger. We have reinvented many common weekly traditions such as Assembly, and everyday my friends join a Zoom call during lunch to spend time together as our “virtual lunch table.” The aspect of remote learning has given the creative minds within the student body the opportunity to reimagine what it means to be a star. My counselors email my class weekly concerning updates, and sometimes their simple words of kindness make my day. My class has started to virtually recreate traditions such as Prom, and we have collaborated on several virtual projects in an effort to continue to spread spirit to the school we miss so much.

This process has not been easy by any means, but by working together with my class and school I have a new appreciation for my faculty, classmates, and student body. I miss St. Agnes so much, but I know I will be back eventually.

Until then, though, I will join my class in making the most out of the situation, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my school during this time it’s that we’ll always be stars—even through a computer screen.

Sarah Grace Price, SAA '20

Students

Only just a few weeks ago, I was at school in my weekly SGA meeting talking about ways to destress our St. Agnes community and the overwhelming response from everyone in the room was to cut back on technology use. Before coronavirus, my friends and I would often talk about how we wished social media and cell phones hadn’t been invented, complaining about their addictive and draining qualities. However, here I am a month later depending on my laptop and phone to keep my life normal.

Although it’s not ideal to spend my last few weeks on Zoom classes with my peers, I’m so thankful that I still have a way to keep in touch. The few days I spent in quarantine before starting classes, I was bored out of my mind. I absolutely dreaded my first day of online classes, however, I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself looking forward to classes with my friends. Being able to use Zoom has kept me linked in with my friends in and out of the classroom, as we often use it for friend group movie nights by screen sharing our Netflix and even doing “workout classes” together after school.

I’ve also enjoyed the free time and freedom that remote learning has given me. It doesn’t sound great to be sitting in front of a laptop for upwards of 5 hours for school, Calliope, and homework, but spending my screen time at school has actually made me want to spend less time on Netflix and social media. Now that I’m forced to be in front of a screen, when I have the free time I want to do something active and productive, like painting or riding my bike. Because of the freedom remote learning has given me, I value my free time much more.

Looking back, it’s ironic that I wished for technology to disappear altogether because now technology is what’s making me appreciate all of the simple opportunities I took for granted. Without technology, I wouldn’t be able to salvage the memories and traditions COVID-19 was trying to take away. I wouldn’t be able to have virtual prom with my friends, live stream mass on Sundays, FaceTime my family in New Orleans on Easter, or even continue my senior year with my teachers and classmates. Although I’m not at school spending my last weeks with my friends, remote learning is helping me make the most of my time and preserving memories that never would have been possible without my computer.

As a fourth-quarter senior, I’ll admit, the transition to online learning has not been one I would have ever anticipated. My senior classmates and I had been looking forward to these last few weeks of high school for years, and I never would have expected to be spending this time together virtually. However, throughout the process of shaky WiFi and constant Zoom links flooding our inboxes, I believe I have found a greater appreciation for not only St. Agnes, but for my class and faculty as well.

When I first heard that my beloved Academy would be transitioning to remote learning, I was skeptical. I didn’t understand how an entire class could collaborate effectively online, and I was sure my everyday virtual schedule would leave me feeling overwhelmed. I missed my friends and teachers, and I thought seeing them through a screen every day would only make me feel worse.

However, I could not have been more wrong.

My school is the best school because it adapts to challenges. I wake up every day and my routine is different, yet I am genuinely excited to log on and see everyone. My teachers have been supportive and encouraging throughout the process, and we have learned to navigate the virtual world together—as a class, as a student body, as a school. Sure, there have been a few technological mishaps, but throughout it all, we are being made stronger. We have reinvented many common weekly traditions such as Assembly, and everyday my friends join a Zoom call during lunch to spend time together as our “virtual lunch table.” The aspect of remote learning has given the creative minds within the student body the opportunity to reimagine what it means to be a star. My counselors email my class weekly concerning updates, and sometimes their simple words of kindness make my day. My class has started to virtually recreate traditions such as Prom, and we have collaborated on several virtual projects in an effort to continue to spread spirit to the school we miss so much.

This process has not been easy by any means, but by working together with my class and school I have a new appreciation for my faculty, classmates, and student body. I miss St. Agnes so much, but I know I will be back eventually.

Until then, though, I will join my class in making the most out of the situation, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my school during this time it’s that we’ll always be stars—even through a computer screen.

Faculty and Staff

I’ll admit, like many others I was nervous about starting this process. I had lots of questions. How was I going to be an effective teacher online? Were my students going to be engaged? How consistent was attendance going to be? All of these questions seemed to answer themselves quickly. The answer was, I was going to be effective, and my students were totally going to buy in! I have been blown away by how well this process of remote learning has gone. 

While it is not the same, I do greatly enjoy getting to see my students’ faces every day. It’s hard to have the same connection that you once had, but I do my best to connect with the boys and have fun. For example, today was Bring Your Favorite Snack to Zoom day! It was silly seeing all the boys with their various snacks, boasting as to why their snack was the best 

During this process, it is my goal to make each day as close to a regular school day as possible. I love that St. Agnes-St. Dominic has not “thrown in the towel”, but has decided that we will make the most out of this remote learning process. I want to be a part of the reason why parents are proud that they chose to educate their boys at St. Dominic School.

Although this time of remote learning has been one of great change and adjustment, it has also been a time where I've learned to appreciate and notice new things around me. Collaborating with my coworkers to convert our teaching online has shown me the dedication we all share for our school. Any question any of us have, they are ready to step up and help. I have learned to appreciate the power of technology and the gift it has given us to still connect with and educate our students. The hard work, motivation, and positivity in the midst of a totally different learning format that our students were suddenly placed into has amazed me. A slower daily pace has made me more attune to appreciate the small things in life, like this timely season of spring and simply being outside to enjoy it. A large smile from my student on the screen is such a joy to see and something I may not have noticed before and would have taken for granted. I'm appreciative that as educators we can still connect with our students and learn new things in the process.

"Be Careful What You Wish For!"

Well, I never imagined that I would be teaching from home for such an extended period! For all of those times that I have wanted to stay home instead of go to school, or just to lounge around in pajama pants all day, I guess that old saying applies: “Be careful what you wish for!”

It has only been a couple of weeks, and I miss school so much already! While I am proud of the fact that SAA-SDS was ready to meet this challenge head-on, and that we have transitioned to remote learning so successfully, I miss the camaraderie with colleagues and interaction with students that is such a hallmark of our close-knit community.

And yet, I still feel connected when I engage in Zoom meetings or remote “assemblies” with students, faculty, and counselors. It seems that our world is changing by the hour all around us, but the one thing that has sustained me for so long is something that I know I can continue to count on—the amazing, supportive community of our school.

While, of course, we would all rather be together—overhearing the kids laughing in the hallways, the lockers slamming as everyone rushes to class, and the animated conversations that constantly take place among us—I feel that when we return to our beloved campus, we will all have a new and deeper appreciation of our
strength as a community, our dedication to learning, and our longstanding traditions.

I, for one, will not be taking for granted the value that SAA-SDS places on relationships, and I hope to reunite with everyone soon with a renewed sense of what it means to be a Star.

With Love and Leadership in Our Virtual Lives'

I usually sign my leadership emails to students with this tag line: "With [heart emoji] love and leadership." It's my way of affirming two values that mean the most to this St. Agnes Star: loving and leading.

Teaching leadership involves lots of vocabulary and theories. "How-to" lead. How to problem-solve. How to prioritize. How to make decisions. How to inspire. How to combat perfectionism. It also involves the "why." Why we need soft skills. Why we collaborate. Why we need to learn to be assertive. Why we must lean into
vulnerability.

But what I witnessed today with the first SGA-led "aZOOMbly"--named, created, led, and done by student leaders--was the best leadership in action I've seen in a long time.

Their key focus: How can we maintain distance and (re)build community?

Admittedly, girls often come to regular assembly reluctantly. How, then, could a group of 12 student leaders plus two G2 Crew members create an experience that girls want to attend when it's not mandatory?

Here is what happened behind-the-scenes:

  1. Two virtual meetings on Zoom. Brainstorming. Finding a hook (the parody of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood for that emotional squishy feeling). Recording themselves singing his jingle. Creating an "agenda" for the occasion that would resonate and be relevant.
    2. Re-creating the Senior Voice experience (and preserving the tradition!) and asking two seniors to embrace the new platform in all its potential awkwardness.
    3. Figuring out the technology piece in collaboration with Angie Brinner, including a student test-run the night before the inaugural aZOOMbly.
    4. Communicating. SGA President Denise Geronimo emailed all students and faculty, encouraging them to grab a snack and tune in.
    5. 1-2-3 ACTION! Here we go--our first virtual assembly. Will anyone show up??

As aZOOMbly unfolded, the chat messages blew up!

From the faculty . . . Dr. Zanone teasing Denise about her rocking chair. Mr. Burkett dying to know who was giving the Senior Voices. Mr. Kirk giving a shout out to Mary Olivia Henderson for her virtual-prom slideshow.

And the students, well, they were virtually clapping with little hands, giving the sweetest shout outs and encouragement, and crying.

It wasn't perfect, but it was us and it was ours.

The students bringing us all together, right where we belong in this moment. With love and leadership.

The last three weeks of “remote learning” have definitely been the most dynamic period of my career. In a short period of time, it became necessary that we learn new ways of teaching, explore new technology, and devise a plan for how we could provide a meaningful education from a remote setting. More importantly, I felt that is was our role to remain positive and calm, showing support for each other as well as our students and their parents. Our world was changing rapidly. Each day, it felt like there was more uncertainty. The anxiety and emotion that this situation evoked was palpable.  And then came Zoom. Zoom was on the long list of new technology that I was trying to digest the first week. At the end of a stressful week, I finally set up my first Zoom meeting with my girls. It was in that minute that I gained perspective and remembered what I love most about my job. Seeing their smiles and interacting with my girls gave me a new sense of purpose. In an unprecedented time in our world, I needed to be a constant for them. They are my favorite part of each day. Yes, we have figured out how to have Math and Social Studies classes. But, the take away
from this experience is not about the academics. It’s not about the technology. It’s about the support and love within our community. This experience has shown me that our pillar of Community is stronger than this pandemic. I have never been more proud and thankful to be a part of St Agnes Academy- St Dominic School.

Transitioning from a traditional classroom to a virtual classroom has had its challenges, but I’ve seen more good come from this situation than bad. It took about a week for my third graders to fully transition to logging in, learning, and sharing their work virtually. Through all of this, I’ve learned my students can rise to face adversity.

The way my students have adapted has truly inspired me. I’ve seen them work harder and speak kinder. They have learned to really appreciate their time together. We have daily morning meetings and biweekly virtual class lunches where we talk about our days, check in on one another and play games. I love seeing their faces light up when they get to see and talk to each other when it’s not about school! My students’ laughter is the number one thing I miss about all of us being together. The current state of our new classroom environment has shown me that St. Dominic students are resilient, determined, and up for anything!

Embracing Our Remote Learning

Click Here for Our K-12th Grade Parents' Guide to Remote Learning

Mrs. Frank’s 7th graders displayed amazing creativity as well as scientific knowledge as they constructed models of DNA using only materials available at their house. Students had to make sure their models included the six main parts of the DNA molecule- deoxyribose sugar, phosphates, and the four nitrogen bases (adenine, thymine, cytosine, and guanine).

“We normally do this project in class with materials I give them, but obviously we had to change up the project a little bit due to everyone learning from home,” said Mrs. Frank. “My students made some spectacular models of the DNA ladder, and some even took the challenge to make it the double helix/twisted ladder shape just like the real DNA structure.”

Check out their creative DNA designs below!

Science Rules! Photos

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Back in the fall, the St Dominic 4th grade class read the novel Hatchet, and their teacher Mr. Ogier planned an overnight camping trip to Shelby Forest as the culminating activity of their unit of study. Unfortunately, the campout was postponed due to bitterly cold weather. Fast forward to the 4th Quarter of school, April 2 was the rescheduled date. Obviously, the trip had to be canceled once again due to the “safer at home” directive. But our Mr. Ogier would not be discouraged and decided to hold a virtual campout instead!

Tents set up in playroom...Flashlights ready...Scary stories ready to be shared...Hanging out with friends... 
An amazing lesson and display of creativity and resiliency...St. Dominic Suns – Brotherhood Begins Here!

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As we embarked on this venture into remote learning our Upper School Drama I (speech classes) started on their next speech assignment - a pep talk! Students got to choose their audience.  It may be the seniors, their classmates, their grandparents, anyone who they think needs a pick me up during this time of uncertainty.

COVID-19 isn't slowing down our young scientists. Check out Mr. Henry's great lesson on acceleration for our Jr. High science classes. Mr. Henry rolled a Hotwheels car down a track and recorded the final velocity and the initial velocity which the photogates recorded. Students watched remotely and used the stopwatches on their cell phones to time the interval between the two photogates. They then calculated the acceleration of the car using their time from their cell phones!

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Learning has continued for our Littlest Stars and Suns in our PK2 classes. Our students have been busy counting, and matching and sorting and learning their letters.  One assignment was to find and count 20 toys.

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See the creative ways they have been learning the letters “T” and “U.”

In the month of March, the St. Agnes Lower School theme was Herstory month, in honor of Women’s History Month. The SAA Kindergarten class focused on the idea that  “you are never too young to make a difference.”

Two of our KinderStars took this message to heart! Sadie Glaser heard about the tornadoes in Nashville and responded by asking her mom if they could put together a toy drive. The response was overwhelming, and Sadie and her family ended up delivering a carload of toys, blankets, and clothes right to Nashville!! 
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McKenzie Dean sprung into action during the quarantine. She heard the residents at the nursing homes could not have visitors right now.  She wanted to put a smile on their faces and let them know they were not alone. This little KinderStar made over 80 cards to share with the nursing home residents!
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Tour the SAA Art Studio

Their classroom might look a little different now, but that has not stopped these talented St. Agnes Academy artists from creating beautiful artwork and working incredibly hard on their assignments.

Since beginning our remote learning plan, students have learned new methods of art as meditation and mindfulness, such as Zentanlges.  They have unplugged from the computer to get some Vitamin D by sketching en Plein air like the French impressionists.

All classes were given an art history assignment. They were to research a famous artwork, write about the artist, art movement and the style of painting, and then create a humorous meme to relate the painting to their own personal experience.

Please take a minute to enjoy this sampling of our students’ artwork and hard work throughout this transition to remote learning. This studio includes an overview of work by St. Agnes Art 2, 3 and AP classes. Their teacher is Ginny Crittendon.

Click on the thumbnail below to view the entire gallery.

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