August 10, 2020
Opening a school year online is hard. Really hard.
In a normal year at EAB there are a lot of moving parts as, due to the high number of students who come from embassies, we have between 15 and 20% change in our high school population each August. That reality was compounded this year not only due to distance learning, but also by the fact that in the runup to the opening of school our leadership team and new teacher cohort were working from four continents and a 15 hour time difference. We also had new families and students who had not yet arrived in Brazil and were spread across the United States and the world.
Our team worked incredibly hard to make sure our opening on August 3 would be smooth and I was confident it was going to be a good start to the year. Still, heading into the final weekend before school began there were a lot of questions around new student schedules, Zoom links for classes, and other details that are difficult to manage remotely. It was frustrating and more than a bit stressful and at one point on Saturday I thought to myself, “If we were on campus and the new kids could just go to the counselor’s office, sit with a friendly face, and sort things out, all of these problems would go away.”
And then it hit me.
We have the power to create a virtual counselor’s office via Zoom that can serve the exact same purpose. With that in mind, I created a day long Zoom meeting called the Zoom Support Room and invited principals, counselors, the deans of students and academics, special services professionals, the IB Coordinator and the EAB Tech Team to the meeting. We then shared the Zoom link with our faculty, students, parents, and leadership with the message that if on Monday morning any student was confused about an aspect of the opening of school, they should be sent to the support room.
Throughout Monday morning students and parents entered the support room. As they did, we had a number of co hosts who would greet them, ask their name and grade, and then send them to breakout rooms where one of our faculty would meet them to attend to their individual needs. We were quite busy throughout the morning but it was so very nice to meet our new students, talk with their families, and give them some peace of mind in a stressful moment for their families. By Tuesday morning the traffic in the support room became a trickle and virtually all of the glitches were solved.
The Zoom Support Room was a great success and the appreciation shown by families and students was profound. I know at EAB we open a bit earlier than most other schools and so I thought to write in the hopes that colleagues in Brazil and around the world might adapt the idea to their needs. I wish all of you the very best for the start of the school year.