Stronger Together: Life & Learning at the WW Graduate School in Uncertain Times
March 12 was the last time that faculty, staff, and teacher candidates (TCs) at the WW Graduate School of Teaching & Learning met in person before the COVID-19 lockdown. Since then, like both higher education and many K-12 schools, the Graduate School moved to operate fully online — including remote learning and teaching for current TCs. Each of these shifts has shown both the strength of the community and its capacity to adapt to new and unforeseen circumstances.
In the move to remote work and learning, faculty, staff, and TCs continue to stay connected and engaged, even as they juggle teaching and learning responsibilities with child care, home schooling, and new routines for shopping, meal preparation and staying healthy. Self care and support for each other during this time is a priority, whether in the form of meditation sessions three days a week or virtual game nights. Faculty and staff meet several times a week to share life and work updates, and check-ins are part of every practicum and studio session. TC Cesar Urrunaga looks forward to remote Practicum and Studio sessions each week.“It’s nice to know that we can continue to be with each other from wherever we are. I feel that we are still connected, and we’re in this together.”
In addition to coming together for social and emotional support, the staff and teacher candidates are also coming together to sustain their learning. President Deborah Hirsch notes how quick the staff has been to shift gears: “It has been incredible to see the team working to adapt and redesign our curriculum to accommodate the circumstances and constraints of learning in the midst of a pandemic.” TC Breauna Campbell echoes the sentiment, observing that the entire community is involved in the redesign process. “I love seeing how everyone at the Graduate School works to figure out how to promote learning for our students and also for us as educators to grow,” she says. “Even with us working remotely, I see the same energy and creativity to design the learning experience.”
For Dr. Connie Chow, Faculty Mentor in Science, the grit and resiliency that teacher candidates have demonstrated has been incredibly gratifying. “This is a tough time, but seeing TCs work together and support each other in meeting their students’ needs is both exciting and affirming that they are getting the tools that will help them succeed once they are full-time teachers,” says Dr. Chow. TCs have been instrumental in helping their students adapt to virtual learning, ensuring they have reliable Wi-Fi access and hosting asynchronous learning sessions centered to address individual students’ needs.
Design thinking, a core competency at the Graduate School, is the ideal preparation for unexpected situations. As a result, TCs emerge with the tools they need to problem solve and teach effectively in any situation. Recent graduate Jane Strauch recently wrote to faculty thanking them “… for preparing me so well for crazy things like teaching all my kids remotely from home … I feel qualified to be a leader at my school in this transition.”
Graduates of the program take not only flexibility and adaptability, but also their network with them. For Xheni Mucelli, who completed the program in March, she’ll stay connected through a two-year mentoring program and through her close relationships with peers and staff. “One of the things that makes this place so special is that everyone cares deeply about your path and is eager to support you,” she said. “I feel like the community is there to support my learning and continued growth as an educator even after I graduate.”