Editorial: Looking at a Post-Pandemic Lawrenceville
Since the Spring Term of 2020, we, as Lawrentians, have seen sweeping changes to learning norms.
Since the Spring Term of 2020, we, as Lawrentians, have seen sweeping changes to learning norms. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the School has completely redefined what an academic environment is—notable examples include hybrid learning models, a greater incorporation of technology into the classroom, and comprehensive changes to pace of life—drastically improving students’ learning environment in comparison to the virtual spring term.
Many members of our community view these changes as temporary or simply patchwork solutions. However, the Lawrenceville experience should always be adaptable based on the needs of its community members. Rethinking what we saw as habitual in the past, we should acknowledge that many of the changes made in light of the pandemic are extremely positive and we should seek to incorporate them, when applicable, to a post-pandemic Lawrenceville.
Take, for example, our transition to hybrid learning models. Many Lawrentians have expressed that they prefer learning in-person rather than over Zoom—that is, after all, one of the primary reasons why the School reopened. Most, if not all, cannot wait for the moment when we can all safely sit around the Harkness table and deliberate face to face, not screen to screen. However we do not have to completely abandon virtual learning once the pandemic subsides. In the past, virtual learning was unfathomable, but now, going forward, the administration should consider weaving online learning into our traditional Lawrenceville experiences to better accommodate those who have important obligations throughout the school year. For example, say a student feels ill, needs to travel for a sports tournament, or has a family function. The ability to go virtual could serve as an asset allowing students to participate via their computers instead of scrambling to make up work all alone, missing out on valuable time in the classroom. After all, Harkness is still the crux of our education.
Now more than ever, it is impossible to learn without adeptness to various forms of technology, leaving many students craving the “normal” of the past. While there is certainly a lot of comfort in returning to old, familiar ways, such as taking notes on paper, administering tests in person, or completing homework by hand on a sheet of paper, technology is actually the new “normal,” and we shouldn’t shy away from it. Programs and applications like OneNote, which is heavily used in the math department this year, are pandemic-induced changes that faculty can implement into our courses for the long-run. While OneNote was initially criticized for being difficult to navigate, as students become more and more familiar with how to use the app, many of its advantages have started to show; Lawrentians are now much more organized with their work, and everything a teacher covers throughout a week is located in one place for easy reference. Now after spending two terms adjusting to tech-based classroom tools, we can shift our gaze towards making them stay.
In addition to academic changes, the administration should also consider altering our class schedule, as this fall’s class arrangements have greatly improved pace of life for many students. It may seem difficult for us to remember now, but a regular Lawrenceville Monday, for example, entailed six 45 minute-long classes from 8:00 AM to 3:20 PM. Instead, we now have classes three times a day, a commitment that is much more manageable for students and teachers alike. Not only that, the current class schedule gives many Lawrentians the opportunity to focus more on preparing for three classes than feeling the need to cram six subjects’ worth of material into one day. Nevertheless, there must have been a reason why we had four classes in a day. Although we do not need to fully adopt a three-classes schedule so that teachers can still meet all the requirements within our curricula, simply by revising our Monday schedule to a normal class day could reduce anxiety on a Sunday night.
While the Covid-19 pandemic will eventually come to an end, the desire as an institution to discover and implement the very best ways of helping students grow and learn should endure.