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What does good learning look like?

Adapt, Thrive and Innovate

At our recent virtual Open House for our current parents, I was listening to my colleagues discuss and describe some of what’s happening at school right now and I noticed a bit of a pattern. Anna Alferi (our middle school English teacher) talked about our Beads for Education program, a longstanding connection we have forged with a sister school in Kenya. She spoke about the emerging shape of the program this year, a middle school book club that will extend from Watkinson to Kenya with Tembea Girls High School, and that students from our two schools will read and discuss A Wrinkle in Time together. She concluded by saying that this opportunity was the result of our growing relationship and that going virtual among and between our schools was actually making our Beads for Education program more real, present, relevant, and more personal than ever before. 

Listening to Hillary Sibille (our Language Department Chair and International Student Coordinator) talk about the gardening work being done by a student activity — reclaiming the grounds after a season of inattention and the planting the beautiful mums that now give color and new life to the grounds — was a reminder that fall, this fall anyway, can be a time for new growth and a bright side to gardening in the colder weather.

The Ram Run, a Watkinson tradition we weren’t able to hold in the usual way this year is now a new version of itself. By going virtual and becoming a fundraiser, the Ram Run attracted more runners than ever and has become a meaningful way to contribute to our own sense of community and support the good work of a new community partner, the Hartford Community Loan Fund. This year’s Ram Run was better than ever. 

Connecting these varied endeavors and happenings, I began to think about the kinds of clichés that arise as we speak of life during quarantine, despite difficult conditions or in the midst of hardship.  People talk about “making do” and turning lemons into lemonade. At best, these images cast new solutions or maybe even small, meaningful moments of brilliance in a bit of a minor key. 

What if we reframe the way we think about some (not all, of course!) of the new thinking that has been ours to do in this pandemic for what it just might be: innovation. 

No one would ding innovation as being a compromise. We’d never say innovating was making do. It’s the thing we rightfully and correctly associate with taking us into a future we want, a future we anticipate with excitement, joy, and maybe a little pride. 

Not every move we make right now is a brilliant innovation. Sometimes we must compromise, make decisions about our capacity to cope, adjust, make do. But what if going forward we always hold some virtual version of a Ram Run that enables alumni, friends, and members of the extended Watkinson community to participate? What if Beads for Education now will mean co-programming and a deepening of our students’ learning together with their classmates in Kenya? What if fall gardening leads us to deciding we need to design and build cold frames that will allow us to cultivate seeds and grow through an extended season? 

What if we’re able to see the need to adapt, thrive, and innovate — even now — as an essential part of who we are? I think on days like this, we’re more Watkinson than we even knew!

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