That’s not to say everything went perfectly. Teachers and students had to get on the same page about where assignments would be posted, how to submit them, and the etiquette of Zoom (Mute your microphone!). Furthermore, the learning management system PowerSchool endured outages and slow-downs as tens of thousands of people across the country flooded it with activity.
And yet, with patience and persistence, everyone muddled through the early days until a routine could be established.
“My teachers have made and are continuing to make efforts to clear the confusion and to make this experience as smooth as possible,” says junior Matthew McKenna. “Being out of a classroom setting and having the freedom to complete work at my discretion is nice, but it can make it very difficult to keep my days productive, orderly, and structured.”
Depending on the teacher and subject, academic instruction included just about every tool teachers had available to them, from daily “live” lessons, to recorded video lectures or labs, to reading assignments and papers, worksheets, and subject-specific software activities. If there was a creative way to help students learn, teachers explored it. McKenna praised the effort from his English teacher, Terra Caputo, PhD, in assisting students with the transition.
“From the start, Dr. Caputo was very helpful,” he says. “She hosted a Zoom conference during which she laid out the schedule for us in a very organized way; she kept us updated about the changes due to the virus, especially those regarding the AP exams, and she even made a Google document that diagrammed the next few weeks, listed her office hours, and dictated all that was expected of us.”
Matthew McKenna '21 at his work station at home.
The magic of being in the classroom with our teachers was not entirely lost in the process, though. Themselves masters of connecting with students, many teachers found unique ways to enliven online lessons—or even take liberties with the dress code.
“It was fun to see guys in sweats and t-shirts hanging out at home, with the occasional mom doing a walk-through or giving a line from off-screen,” wrote Theology teacher Tom Healey ’77. “One of the highlights was playing virtual catch with Jack O’Rourke ’20. Another was seeing the new puppy of Matthew McLaughlin ’20 – a cute little guy named Rudy."
Spanish teacher Sara Sebring organized a speaker series, with dozens of her students joining into six different conference calls featuring a variety of Spanish speakers, including alumni Brian Sabath ’17 and Anthony Delsanter ’18. Math teacher Johnny Rowell ’11 took a break from geometry and algebra one day to teach his students the fine art of baking bread.
Teachers held virtual office hours, a period of time when students could jump on a video chat and ask a question, or submit questions via a Google Doc and have them answered in real-time. Counselors and teachers exhausted all measures to check in with students from whom they might not have heard, working to keep all students connected.
“We’re taking a huge leap with 100 teachers that are in a lot of different degrees of experience and ability and we asked them to do an extraordinary thing, and we’re all in it together,” says Jarc. “We’re doing our best to try and continue learning. We’re trying to continue providing families the opportunity to go to Saint Ignatius for the next couple of weeks.”
From the get-go in his communication with the faculty and families, Bradesca’s goal was to be realistic and honest about the reality of the situation and the expectations for working through the crisis.
“The way I’ve tried to operate is to follow [former Saint Ignatius President] Fr. Bill Murphy’s mantra, which is tell the truth, tell it first, and tell it often,” he says. “Telling people off the bat that this is difficult, to not think that things are going to be the same. We have to adapt and be flexible. Expect great difference and be comfortable with that. It’s about the kids’ needs and not our own personal desires.”
The community would rise to the challenge of meeting those needs.
Guided by our faith
It wasn’t long after the start of online classes that some shared feelings emerged: I miss being at school. I wish I could be with my friends. I’m bored, stressed, anxious, annoyed—you get the idea.
As a school, the response to these feelings was immediate and expansive—and it all began with faith.
Starting on March 16, the Jesuit community began celebrating weekday Masses in St. Mary of the Assumption Chapel, streamed live online for all to watch. Then, a Sunday Mass was added. The monthly Taizé prayer service continued. Daily Examens were broadcast. The result was that, at least a dozen times each week, any person anywhere could tune in to the Saint Ignatius Broadcast Network for spiritual nourishment and inspiring messages. These continued throughout Holy Week, as the Jesuits celebrated the services as a brotherhood, alone in the chapel.