I have spent the past month watching the number of downloads for Kalix’s latest eBook Reimagining Admissions: Lessons From The Pandemic tick up each week. It’s gratifying to see that leaders in the independent school community are eager to learn about how the pandemic has changed admissions and enrollment management for good.
As Kalix approaches its 9th birthday on May 23, 2021, it is also personally rewarding to see that the marketing company I founded to help independent schools make more strategic marketing decisions is helping schools around the country.
But as we move into a new phase of the pandemic — getting vaccinated and taking tentative steps to return to a normal life while remaining vigilant as new COVID-19 variants remain a threat — I have been thinking about the main lesson I have learned from the pandemic.
The unsung heroes of every school in the country over the past 13 months have been your faculty and staff. If teaching before COVID was challenging, it has been beyond difficult these many months for these professionals. From in-person classes to hybrid models, your faculty has been asked to completely redesign its approach to how it fundamentally teaches, engages and motivates students (some of whom teachers only see online every day).
How do I know this? For the past 28 years I’ve had the honor of being an on-campus faculty spouse at the all-girls’ Garrison Forest School in Owings Mills, Md. My wife and I have raised two daughters while living on campus. Our first 13 years of our marriage were as dorm parents; now, we live in an on-campus faculty apartment. Our friends and neighbors are frontline faculty facing the incredible challenges of teaching throughout COVID.
I have watched teachers and staff adapt with grace, flexibility, grit and sheer determination. Four of our neighbors in the large farmhouse-turned-faculty-apartments are department chairs including my wife. If science, history, math or the arts are your passion, then you should come visit. Rounding out this old house are a lower school teacher and a riding/equine specialist.
Since March 2020 and the abrupt shift to remote learning, this incredibly dedicated group of teachers has worked at maximum capacity to educate and care for a diverse group of girls whose parents have made the investment in an independent school education. And while I don’t witness it as their neighbor, I know that their teaching peers across Garrison Forest have embraced the challenges of what it means to teach and care for students and each other during a pandemic. Working side-by-side with them is an equally dedicated team of admissions, communications, development, finance, maintenance, housekeeping, dining hall and other support staff and professionals. I continue to be awed and humbled by their example of servant leadership.
It was, perhaps, the ultimate teachable moment. I learned a great deal about embracing the unexpected by faculty and staff rising to the challenge of teaching in a pandemic. They charged forward with a determination to continue to teach and teach well. They embraced new technologies practically overnight. Teachers and staff proved that the most perplexing of challenges can be overcome.
My advice to you as a Head of School, CFO/director of finance or division head is simple. As you begin to wind down the academic year, take the time to celebrate and thank your faculty and staff for the incredible work they have done these past 13 months. They are tired, overworked (and likely underpaid) and need the summer to recharge, so that they can return fresh this fall to warmly welcome students back to the classroom.
To my wife Debbie and our neighbors, Catie, Diane, Karin, Kaycie and Lindsey, thank you for all that you have done and continue to do in your collective pursuit of educational excellence. Your hard work and determination have paid off. My hope is that the post-COVID environment will be far easier for you and all of your colleagues.