Teachers host Back to School Day


Illustration by Alexa Druyanoff

In an illustration, a figure takes notes watching the Back to School virtual meeting of an English class. For Back to School Day, parents and guardians were able to follow their child’s schedule and attend their classes.

Lucas Cohen-d'Arbeloff

The school hosted a virtual Back to School Day for upper school parents Sept. 25. The event helps parents learn more about their children’s courses, teachers and learning experiences.

Although students returned to in-person school this year, President Rick Commons said in an email Sept. 3 that a Zoom event was the most reasonable format for Back to School Day in order to avoid COVID-19 safety issues.

“This important chance for parents to meet their children’s teachers is not quite the same without meeting in-person and moving from classroom to classroom as students do, but with well over 1,000 parents attending both [the middle and upper school Back to School Days], we have decided that it is prudent to use Zoom once again,” Commons said.

During the event’s opening webinar, Head of Upper School Beth Slattery said the online format of this year’s Back to School Day allowed for easier movement between classes, even if some personal interactions were lost.

“Despite wishing you could see the view of campus that I currently have, and despite missing the community that this day offers, last year’s online version was quite successful,” Slattery said. “No trouble parking, no navigating dozens of stairs and I‘m glad to have so many [parents in attendance].”

Slattery said the new upper school block schedule has been successful and more teaching has been able to take place.

“Things are going swimmingly so far,” Slattery said. “One of the best things about our new schedule is the ability of our students to take advantage of our amazing curriculum. In particular, the 75-minute blocks allow students and teachers to take a deep dive into their content and use a variety of modalities in a way they simply couldn’t with 45-minute periods.”

Parents then joined 10-minute meetings for up to seven of their children’s class blocks, where teachers introduced themselves and discussed their courses. Parents whose children take a Directed Study course were able to attend these additional sessions.

Inna Effress (Raisa Effress ’23, Abe Effress ’25, Jake Effress ’27) said she enjoyed the brief interactions she had during the event, despite the virtual format.

“The teachers came highly prepared with highly professional presentations, and in some cases, the warmth and humanity shone through from the screen,” Effress said. “At the same time, of course, nothing beats being able to look around at the classroom walls, the evidence of students [and] the way the desks are arranged. On the flip side, if not for Zoom, we would not have been doubly won over by an inspirational teacher with an amazing pajama top.”