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Pandemic Innovations Open New Doors at Rossman
By: Upper School Director Jordan Andes
This year, I start most of my mornings in the 6B classroom. If you walked into the room, you would likely notice natural light pouring through the wall of windows. Your eye may then find the rainbow tower of construction paper and a shelf lined with bottles of paint. In a typical year, the 6B classroom is the art room.
Our art teacher, Erica Spangler, starts her day a few doors down in the Extended Day room. Because many specialist classrooms have been repurposed to enable adequate social distancing, the Extended Day room has become a temporary office for teachers. There, “Super Spangler” is joined by other colleagues who have been inspiring students and bringing their subjects to classrooms via specialist carts outfitted with materials for their subjects.
Most mornings in 6B, I hear a comforting lull of conversation coming from the Extended Day room. Some days, the soft chatter becomes boisterous, and deep belly laughs cascade down the hallway. Sixth grade students, arriving for the day, hear their teachers laughing and look at one another. Their eyes brighten, and their cheeks rise. Even behind a mask, students’ smiles are unmistakable. Amidst change and challenge, joy is alive and well at Rossman.
In a typical year, the highly collaborative nature of the Rossman faculty sets our school apart. In a pandemic year, faculty collaboration is an expression of what it looks like to not simply react to new circumstances, but to respond purposefully. After speaking with faculty, one common thread running through reflections on the current year has been the support and collaboration between teachers across subjects and grade levels. While the pandemic has brought many challenges, I am proud of and inspired by the many ways in which our community has found opportunities to grow and make silver linings.
“When we went remote in the spring, I did lots of research to find tools to use to reach kids when teaching online. That really opened the doors.” Pre-COVID, Julie Smith attended workshops to study the concept of math flexibility as a way to support students’ math fluency in first grade. New digital resources like DreamBox, webinars with Greg Tang, and Estimation Mysteries have become sources of inspiration and have helped the first grade teachers further challenge students to find multiple ways to solve problems. Such tools have also inspired additional ways in which to use physical manipulatives in the classroom –– Estimation Mysteries has become a class favorite math activity!
Mrs. Spangler noted that “Zoom is a tool that has expanded our reach and opened up greater availability to welcome guest speakers beyond St. Louis.” While learning about collage, third grade students were able to Zoom with guest artist Reggie Laurent. Based in Atlanta, Laurent creates beautiful, bright pieces that emphasize every color and demonstrate beauty in inclusion. Hearing from Laurent and considering his pieces inspired students to use colors in new ways. During a woodworking project in fifth grade, students Zoomed with Little Rock artist John Bruhl to learn more about his process and designs in making furniture. While working on whiteboard animation videos, sixth grade students had the opportunity to learn from local artist Brian King, an expert in storytelling through cartoons, who shared his screen over Zoom to provide insights into his creative process.
In music, students have continued to rehearse and perform in class throughout the year. With the temporary suspension of large crowds for live performances, class periods formerly designated for program rehearsals have offered room for new ways to explore curriculum. Combining her passion for traveling, history and music, Amira Fuller developed a world cultural unit in Upper School. Students explored nine different cultural music backgrounds (Native and Latin American, African, Middle Eastern, Indian, Australian aboriginal, Indonesian, Chinese, and Japanese). Exploring different sounds, students learned how music is used in other parts of the world in order to relate to and appreciate different cultures.
Outdoor spaces have become an even more invaluable part of our campus, providing students with space to spread out, move around and take in the fresh air. In Spanish class, Keylah West reflects that “the outdoors added a new dimension” to her classes. In the warm sun, students have enjoyed space to work and learn together, creating stories in Spanish, acting them out, and filming them around campus.
Director of Admission Katharine Durham reimagined traditional open houses to welcome prospective families and share about Rossman School. This year, the in-person open house turned into a series of webinars, each centered around a core aspect of our school: social-emotional learning, engaging academics, and confidence and character. Through Zoom, we were able to reach a broad audience in the comfort of their homes or at the office, both live and through recordings. In each webinar, administrators, faculty, students, and Rossman parents spoke to core aspects of our philosophy and practices to establish the foundation for true learning and growth. The digital format has allowed us to capture a glimpse of Rossman and connect with the community in new ways.
“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” As we are able to gather and use spaces as we have in years past, I am excited to see how Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words hold true. What innovations from teaching in a pandemic have brought value and will continue to shape what we do?
With many weeks of school left to enjoy, we also look toward the year ahead. As we plan, we recognize ways we have innovated and the projects, approaches, tools, and techniques we have implemented. We reflect on the relationships that have grown and the parts of our day that have become dear.
Rossman School, nestled on a 20-acre campus in St. Louis, is a private preparatory school for students in Junior Kindergarten (four years old) through Grade 6. The school’s mission is to provide a strong, well-balanced education in a nurturing school community committed to excellence. Dedicated to developing personal, nurturing relationships with each child, Rossman’s experienced educators provide a solid foundation in academics, athletics and arts while emphasizing strong character development and leadership skills. Request a free Rossman School brochure here.