writings and Reflections

Remote Learning @ Hewitt: Working Together in a Moment of Adversity
Tara Christie Kinsey

As we prepare to launch Remote Learning @ Hewitt, I write to share why I believe that our community’s core strengths will serve us well in the weeks ahead.

To begin, I am proud of the calm, steady, and focused way each and every Hewitt faculty member prepared, in the days and weeks leading up to spring break, for remote learning. The research we did with schools already several weeks into remote learning in other parts of the country led us to develop a phased approach, one that allows for intentional evolution and flexible iteration based on direct experiences and feedback. We recognize that the launch of remote learning will not be perfect, nor will it be easy. Remote learning is not only new for everyone — teachers, students, and families alike — but it will also feel discordant with many aspects of how Hewitt functions. Our founder Caroline Hewitt stated, “It is the touch of life upon life that matters most in a school.” Presence is the first pillar of our academic philosophy. Hewitt’s highly interactive culture of learning has taken place primarily in our classrooms, halls, and other on-campus spaces. Our pedagogy of presence and in-person interaction are so central to our culture, in fact, that the necessity of remote learning would seem to challenge the very nature of our school as we know it.

Yet when one door closes, another door opens. Dedicated, passionate, and self-reflective educators at Hewitt and all over the world are suddenly implementing remote learning on an unprecedented scale. We are about to participate in and witness a flowering of educational innovation never before seen. It is undeniably a challenging time for teachers and students, and we must extend our grace and patience to them as they wade into these new waters. Yet it is also an incredibly exciting watershed moment in education, and I look forward to the invention and innovation that emerges from educators at Hewitt and around the globe.

Perhaps above all, my hope is that remote learning at Hewitt inspires us to shed new light on what we appreciate most about our school, so that it can be preserved even when the conditions are less than ideal. As the author Arthur Golden wrote: “Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.” I imagine that we will come to understand a great deal about ourselves and our community as the winds of adversity tear away from us many of the things we associate with Hewitt. But I hope that one of “the things that cannot be torn” away is our community’s extraordinary capacity for forging deep human connections, for establishing and maintaining a sense of belonging, for inspiring students’ intrinsic motivation to learn, and for cultivating our students’ sense of purpose. In these areas in particular, Hewitt is exemplary in the world of independent schools, and we will call upon these core strengths to withstand the adverse winds of the current moment. Together, we will discover that learning at Hewitt is not dependent on a schoolhouse made of bricks and mortar. Together, we will ensure that the “touch of life upon life” that inspired our founder will transcend physical proximity.

As we shift to remote learning for the first time in 100 years, let us remember that our challenge — whether for faculty, staff, students, or families — is to maintain the values and mission of our school in a time when we must function without a schoolhouse. This is a task for us as individuals, as well as a task for us as a community. None of us would have chosen to be in this situation. But given the commitment, resourcefulness, imagination, determination, and hard work that is characteristic of this school community, I am confident that we will accomplish the task of safeguarding and preserving “the things that cannot be torn” away from the Hewitt experience, no matter how strong the winds of adversity blow. Together, we will seize this moment to deepen our understanding of who we really are. And in the process, we will forge new and unforeseen approaches to delivering our mission that will be of great value to us when the winds die down and we can once again see a beautiful horizon in the distance. This day will come. We don’t know exactly when. But it will.

As we begin this journey together, we look forward to leveraging technology to keep our students and families feeling connected to Hewitt and inspired by the work we are doing to deliver our mission: To inspire girls and young women to become game changers and ethical leaders who forge an equitable, sustainable, and joyous future. I am proud to see how much hard work is happening behind the scenes, how deeply this community cares about each student’s learning experience, and how much cooperation and love abides at Hewitt. 

To each and every Hewitt student, I send a virtual high five and the message, “You’ve got this.” 

  • Remote Learning

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