Looking Back and Ahead

By Payton Hobbs, Head of Lower School

It’s hard to believe it has been one full year since our lives were upended by the news that the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Just days after this announcement, we found ourselves developing and quickly implementing an e-learning model and would spend the months to follow teaching and learning from our homes. Then instead of rest and recovery, the summer months revealed more uncertainty and new problems to solve as we looked to launch the 2020–2021 school year. 

We rose to the challenge and designed an exemplary plan that was student-centered and delivered a safe on-campus learning experience in parallel with an e-learning option to support the needs and preferences of our families. Effectively managing and supporting both in-person learners and e-learners required extra preparation, diligence and care—a remarkable accomplishment by our educators. It has been a journey filled with a lot of peaks and valleys, and this journey is far from over. 

Looking back and ahead, what have we learned and how will we apply what we learned?

The three most relevant lessons related to the learning experience in our Lower School are:

1. Adaptability
The ability to adapt quickly to new conditions is proving to be one of the most important competencies that leads to success in a rapidly changing environment. Those who have remained nimble and growth-minded when faced with a whole new set of protocols and restrictions have been able to adjust daily practices and habits in response to the current needs and demands. We need to model and help develop this skill of adaptability for our children in order for them to be flexible and responsive when their journeys get bumpy and they face difficulty again in their lives.

2. Connection 
A sense of belonging in a community and strong connection to others have proven essential to happiness right now. It is easier to get through hard times when you know you are not alone. The community and connection serve as the light during the darkness. Those who have more developed interpersonal skills are able to communicate and collaborate with others in positive and productive ways which leads to the important connection between individuals and groups. We need to prioritize community building and communication skills so our children feel part of and contribute to something bigger than themselves.

3. Well-Being
Communities thriving right now are the ones prioritizing the physical and emotional well-being of all community members. Individuals who have strong self-awareness of their needs and boundaries, in combination with the ability to be vulnerable enough to share that information with others, are better positioned to have their well-being taken care of. It is clear that subject area content and skills will not serve any use if individuals do not have their basic human needs nurtured. We must continue to invest time and energy into social and emotional learning for our children and ourselves.

As we strive to move beyond this challenging year, we are committed to leading like futurists. Instead of focusing on returning to normal, we will focus on learning through this moment and shaping our future to best position our children to thrive in a complex and ever-changing world. Future thinking is focused on possibilities and opportunities instead of trying to predict what will happen. It’s about carrying a vision for who we want to be and how we want to interact with and impact the world around us. Leading like futurists requires that we work together across our differences to turn the vision into our future reality. 

As we envision and shape our future together, let’s continue to prioritize our well-being, strengthen our connections with each other, and remain nimble and open-minded as the world around us changes gradually and suddenly. 

Payton Hobbs
Payton Hobbs

Head of Lower School

Payton Hobbs began her work in the field of education learning with the youngest students as a classroom teacher. She taught kindergarten and first and second grades at both public and private schools. As Mrs. Hobbs’ career progressed, she wanted to expand her impact with learners of all ages and transitioned into leadership positions that included director of curriculum and instruction, assistant head of Lower School, associate director of admission, and head of Lower School. Prior to joining the LJCDS community, Mrs. Hobbs was the head of Lower School at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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