August 14, 2020

Good Afternoon Fellow Pandemic Partners!

You read it right, today is lobster Friday in the Wilson household. In the mudroom, there are 20 crustaceans who recently flew in from Maine just waiting to become one of a couple of dinners. In case you are worried that I have not developed Southern roots, you will be happy to know that we steam them in the turkey fryer outside and have boiled peanuts as an appetizer. Although I am capable of eating an unmentionable number of lobsters, we will use about 8 of them to make a lobster pasta on Sunday night for my mom’s birthday. These also came with free whoopie pies, which are actually a Maine-r tradition. No, I have not decided whether to share those with the kids. Shouldn’t they just be thankful for the lobsters???

Okay, okay. Time for business. And, I really, truly am keeping this short today because those of you who have everyone back on campus are really tired. And, those of you who are not quite there yet have more fixating to do.

First, I have to say that after talking with various schools this week who have students back on campus in some capacity, I cannot tell you how proud I am of the work that you and your teams have done, and how optimistic I am feeling (yes, I knocked on wood, threw salt over my shoulder, etc.). Everyone knows there are tweaks to be made, mistakes that have happened, etc., but generally you are all pretty optimistic and, by most reports, it feels good to get the ball rolling and it is so nice to have kids on campus again. For those who have not returned to campus, we will have a survivors’ tales session next Tuesday (18th) at 4:00 Eastern / 3:00 Central. You (or anyone on your staff or board) can register here. EMA also did a podcast with Randolph Macon Academy about going back in-person, for those of us looking for a dog-walking playlist.

We did have a great heads round table on Wednesday, where we talked about everything from enrollment numbers to testing staff and students, to hospital partnerships and medical advice teams, to paradigms for recognizing phases and shifts. The slides and resources (of which there are many great ones), are here. We have been doing a survey on reopening plans and enrollment shifts. If you are one of the schools that has not completed it, please do so. It does help us get a window into what is happening, as you can see on this page.

A few quick things for you as I know you need to get back to re-opening plans and hopefully some weekend fun:

  • How people are making decisions about sending their kids back to school or keeping them online has been fascinating. This piece from Sanjay Gupta at CNN on how they made their decision really grabbed my attention, particularly since he is in Atlanta (head of school who has Sanjay Gupta as a parent, we will give you an extra drink ticket at the next in-person conference). Full disclosure, we have repeatedly said that our kids will go back in-person when it’s available, and this didn’t change our risk math.  
  • Higher ed had a big week when it came to final calls. This round-up might be useful for those of you playing along at home. NPR also did an overview of how the virus is upending college admissions. Independent school admissions people are drilling down on this and starting to carry those lessons forward into the year ahead.
  • Many folks have seen the mask recommendations, particularly my son who is seriously sad to hear that his neck gaiter does not cut it. Here is the Duke article for those who missed it. The really great news is that masks are working, even here in Charleston, SC. I know we will all feel a bit better if the numbers just head down a bit more.
  • Before you get started for this year, Derrick Willard and his team at Augusta Prep are looking forward to hearing the groans from the tabletop exercises that they have been running to make sure they are ready for contact tracing moment. Check them out.
  • Penny Evins and her team at Collegiate have provided some really incredible academic playbooks for lower, middle, and upper schools that cover everything from anticipated questions, to curriculum planning, and key questions). You will find these to be really helpful models.   
  • NAIS has some great tactical considerations for reopening.
  • If you are thinking about how to bring students, particularly the older ones, back into the fold. This article on working with student voices is really great.
  • Need something for your teachers going on? Check out these ice breaker ideas.
  • Finally, we don’t often see people come to the defense of independent schools, particularly in the press. This one, based in Philly, was really interesting to me because it called out the actual cost to the state if independent schools were to struggle and close. A good concept for your back pocket for the next round of press about independent schools and funding.

For those looking for philosophical conundrums on the horizon that will only be exacerbated in the political firestorm that is getting warmed up, start to watch what is happening around “cancel culture” – a phrase my husband hates and I understand why. It’s too loaded, and is being used to apply to too many circumstances. However, when used to refer to the notion that people (either individuals or groups) set out to call-out and “cancel” a person, a concept, business, etc., without discourse or context, I think most understand the gist. Interestingly, both political sides are troubled by it and accuse the other side of using it. As educators, we need to understand what is happening here, why it is important, and how we can work with our students to ensure that they understand how to actually engage in difficult conversations around hard ideas. We also need to know how this may continue to play out through the election and inauguration cycle. The NYT did a reasonably balanced history and overview in a two part podcast (part onepart two). There has been more than a little debate about it, including in this open letter in Harper’s in early July, and examples of the response to that letter.  

For your booking pleasure… We did open the registration for the annual conference this week. We have a great lineup for you and your teams. We managed to book-end it with Sewanee people in Reuben Brigety and Jon Meacham.

Lastly, news of the weird comes from the Giant Swamp Rats in TX (everything is big in TX). I honestly don’t know what is more disturbing, the swamp rats or the fact that the video plays Dance with Me as the background music. Something more historical than horrifying? Did you know that radiators are supposed to make a room hot enough for you to open the window? Apparently they are a legacy of the Spanish Flu, designed to encourage people to open their windows and improve ventilation.

That’s all from here… stay safe out there and have a great weekend!

Debra