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Making Space for Transformation
In November, I wrote a Thanksgiving message about the future and how Oak Hill was thinking about preparing children for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. That reflection snuck back into the forefront of my mind this week as the blue-light of my last Zoom call faded away. My theme in November was balance—technology would be able to do some things but not all things, and the key virtues of an Oak Hill education were time-tested and weather-worn. I have always been a bit skeptical of the technologist who claims that a computer or artificial intelligence can do the job of an excellent teacher. That skepticism remains, but the future that I wrote about in November seems like the present now as the program is disseminated electronically and lessons are taught through a screen.
As we have jumped into remote learning, teachers are working in a medium they never dreamed. Just watch a veteran teacher break into a cold sweat when she is asked to record herself teaching to an empty room and to adopt multiple logins and passwords. Or for that matter, watch as your introverted head of school has a conversation with a sandwich. Yikes. We have all jumped headlong into the unknown, believing that the children always deserve our very best, even if it forces us way out of our comfort zone.
We quickly learned that teachers can teach skills to children in a remote or virtual space. Children are learning, albeit differently, but they are learning. In fact, some of my colleagues have shared that the remote environment allows for teachers to easily tailor a program to an individual student’s needs. We have learned that technology makes some things easier, but it makes other things much harder—largely the social-emotional connection and the traditions that knit together our community. In the void and without intentionality, schooling becomes more transactional. If education is simply the accumulation of skills, then it becomes an impersonal transaction between teacher and learner. There is a dissonance in this new environment and the core educational values inherent in our approach to teaching and learning.
If we are only focused on the transmission of skills and information—inputs go in and performance comes out—then we could miss the transformational aspects of an Oak Hill education. Transformation is a deeper change representative of character and growth and is the product of relationship and community. The temptation of this moment is to focus too much on the short-term transaction and not on the opportunity for long-term transformation. I would argue that the aspirational transformation is the fruit of an intentional community of love, care and purpose.
Oak Hill’s focus in this time is to make space for the opportunity for transformation. Our mission statement explicitly focuses on the future and character, integrity, learning and service. Academic skills and growth will continue to march along in the hands of our expert educators, but the greater goal for our children is mission-driven, long-term transformation. That transformation happens in the patterns and life of a community, modeling love, care and grace for one another. That is the greater goal, and the greater gift we can give is the transformation beyond the transaction—the meaning behind the skills. We are little more than halfway through this unexpected journey, and the Lord’s guidance as we live our values and purpose will sustain us, as will the laughs and joy of the children. We miss them and you.
Wishing you much love and peace.
*Please note, we will send the link to sign up for our second Friday of live enrichment classes tomorrow at 2 p.m. Several of the more popular classes from this past week are on the schedule again, as well as a few new ones. We also increased the class limits to accommodate more students who are interested in participating. We look forward to another great week.