When I visit schools, I am often asked by faculty how the Online School for Girls can possibly create the type of classroom environments that they do in great independent schools around the country. I typically answer by talking about the high academic standards, the care that our teachers show for their students, and the ability of our faculty to get their students excited about their subjects.
I also concede that there are things that are more difficult to do online: offer on-the-spot feedback for students, or reading the student’s mood or feelings on a particular day. However, I also ask that they concede that there are things better done online: connecting students around the country and world with similar interests, requiring that every student have an equal voice in the classroom, and preparing the girls for the types of online interactions that they will have in college and as 21st century citizens. To illustrate the point, I’ve told this story recently, that I want to share with you:
Last month, I had the pleasure of listening to a student panel on online education at the School of the Holy Child in Rye, New York. The students were from that school and took online courses offered through the Online School for Girls. One of the student’s comments have stuck with me since. She was a poised, articulate student (the type of student any of our schools would be proud to call their own) who had taken Chinese at Holy Child for the previous three years, and wanted to attempt another Asian language before heading off to college, and so enrolled in the Japanese I course this fall through OSG. She spoke glowingly about her course and her teacher, Sensei Tojo, and about the love of the language that she was developing this year. But, what astounded me was when she told the audience of educators that her… Japanese course had helped her further develop her Chinese speaking skills.
The Japanese I course through OSG has thirteen students from a number of schools around the country, with the largest cohort being from Hockaday School in Dallas, Texas. Some of those students are Chinese-nationals who are boarding students at Hockaday. When the student at the School of the Holy Child in Rye realized this through the group projects that they did in the Japanese course, she began practicing her Chinese with the students in Dallas! Now, the student at Holy Child in New York Skypes with the Chinese students in Dallas regularly to help hone both her Chinese and Japanese skills.
The experience that these girls are having is authentic, practical, beneficial to all, and powerful. An amazing experience, and yet one of many nation-wide and world-wide connections being made.
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)