Dear GPS Community,
This is an unprecedented time in our 114-year history as a school. But the current pandemic is also very personal to each of us in its implication to what we hold most dear—our families and their safety.
I ask that you please read this letter in its entirety as it includes very important information about a Town Hall for parents/guardians and plans for the upcoming weeks below.
None of us is untouched by this situation, yet over the past few weeks, we have all worked hard to establish our new normal and meet the challenges at hand. At GPS, our first priority is the well-being of our girls, faculty, staff, and coaches. Now that everyone is home, we have fully embraced our commitment to continue to provide our girls the best education possible and step up to the challenge to reach each girl though distance learning.
Without any shortcuts in our approach, every teacher is delivering their planned curriculum as best they can given the limitations of online classes. I am so proud of our teachers and the energy, thoughtfulness, creativity, and professionalism they are bringing to this new challenge. Their approach is motivated by love for their work and a deep commitment to each girl and her educational success. Our goal is that each girl receives the instruction and experience she needs to successfully complete her school year.
Emotional Support for Our Girls
But as much as adults have had to pivot quickly, our girls have experienced a major upheaval in their lives. Social distancing is most challenging for girls, who are highly relational and miss the close interactions with their friends and teachers. Anxiety and fear can loom large for us all, but especially for our girls. I invite you to read this helpful article
by Dr. Lisa Damour, psychologist, bestselling author, recent GPS speaker, and child development expert. If your daughter is experiencing growing anxiety or exhibits other emotional concerns, please reach out to Heather Landreth, GPS Counseling Specialist & Support Services Department Chair, for assistance.
As I hope you’ll see in the feature below, teachers, counselors, deans, and coaches are being thoughtful about staying connected while interjecting fun, movement, and interaction into their days—and our girls are responding positively and enthusiastically. In this new reality, we acknowledge the need to continue to build community and to help each girl feel as though what matters most in life—health, love, purpose, and integrity—are still the norm. Together we can help our girls process what is happening in the world and their lives and give them hope.
Connecting with GPS Parents
We urge you to join the GPS Parent group
on our Facebook page, as we want to help the adults in our community feel connected as well. Here you can discover what others are doing to make their time at home less stressful and more memorable.
Town Hall Meetings for Parents and Guardians
This week I will host divisional town hall meetings to update parents/guardians about our plans upon our return from spring break (April 3-13). Parents/guardians will hear about Phase III of our distance learning model that begins Tuesday, April 14. Along with our division heads and deans of students, we will answer questions parents may have about our distance learning program and ways we are staying socially connected to our girls.
Plans for End-of-Year School Events
- Middle School Town Hall Meeting Tuesday, March 31, 7-8 p.m. Parents: refer to the email sent with the link to join.
- Upper School Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday, April 1, 7-8 p.m. Parents: refer to the email sent with the link to join.
As you know, this is an ever-evolving situation, and we are in the process of drafting alternative plans for our end-of-year events and treasured traditions. We realize the importance of this information to the girls but, because the duration of the pandemic is unknown, we are waiting for guidance from local and federal government entities, in addition to The College Board (Advanced Placement exams) and TSSAA (Spring Fling), before setting new dates.
Tomorrow (Monday, March 30), I am meeting with the Class of 2020 to talk about May Day, Commencement, and other senior events. Based upon my understanding of this global pandemic, we must determine alternative ways to experience and a different timetable for these traditions that honor our seniors. I want our girls to be a part of this planning. These alternative plans will be shared as soon as we are able to communicate with a level of confidence that those plans are not likely to significantly change.
- This week we will continue with the synchronous distance learning model with the current daily schedule, minus Chapel.
- Middle and Upper School Student-Led Conferences will be held this week as scheduled with each daughter’s advisor.
- Parent/Guardian Town Meetings: Middle School on Tuesday, March 31, at 7 p.m., and Upper School on Wednesday, April 1, at 7 p.m.
- From April 3-13, students and teachers are on spring break.
- Governor Lee has requested that all public schools remain closed through Friday, April 24. GPS will follow suit.
- We are adjusting some aspects of our distance learning model. Phase III will begin on April 14. Attend your Town Hall meeting to learn more.
We continue to closely monitor this evolving situation and will keep you informed of substantial developments. We are with you in prayer for our world and our families.
With hope for our country’s future,
Dr. Autumn A. Graves
DISTANCE LEARNING TAKES OFF
The past two weeks provided learning opportunities all around as teachers and students worked together to determine the best platforms for synchronous learning and individual interactions.
AS A SCHOOL
All teachers completed progress reports and wrote comments on each student while preparing to schedule next week’s Student-Led Conferences. Teachers are also offering virtual help classes and study halls to work with girls one-on-one or in small groups outside of class sessions. To support each other, teachers stay connected through a GoogleMeet to share ideas and suggestions, problem-solve, and brainstorm best practices for distance learning. Additionally, faculty continue to research and test various tools and aids to assess student learning and progress.
Our Support Services team continues to serve our girls well. Learning specialists work with girls who have learning profiles and administer tests that allow for extended time, and our counselors have set up Zoom calls with girls who may need or want individual support or counseling sessions.
IN THE MIDDLE SCHOOL
Black, Blue, and White (BBW) Challenges continue with girls showing “What’s for lunch? (aka missing Chef Brad), Funky Hair Day, and Dress Up Your Pet this week. Next Tuesday a Blue-Out is planned. Girls who participate submit their photo to earn a point for their teams.
During Middle School Advisory, which meets twice each week, some girls were sent on a scavenger hunt around their house to get them up and moving and away from their screens. Bring Your Pet to Class was another fun and welcome assignment for many of our girls. Others were prompted to share “roses and thorns”—the highs and lows of their days as a way to both acknowledge the stress and anxiety they might be experiencing and to let them know they’re not alone. Participation in wellness and mindfulness exercises have also been encouraged. Students also had a virtual show-and-tell day, where they shared their most prized possessions and told why it was special to them.
In some classes, the girls are journaling as though they are historians who are documenting each day of their quarantine, based on prompts provided by The New York Times. Some students were posed with a Question of the Day to respond to.
In lieu of their coordinate game night originally scheduled with McCallie, the sixth-grade girls participated in a GPS Middle School Virtual Game Night spearheaded by Mrs. Outlaw with some help from Upper School students. Ms. Trish King is starting a virtual book club for all interested sixth-graders; first selection: A Long Walk to Water.
Mrs. Outlaw, as one of many faculty members, helped students in sixth-grade Skills class determine the authenticity of information they find on the internet, especially related to COVID-19, asking, Is this news factual? Is it an editorial? Is it satire? A hoax? Such a great life skill!
In dance, sixth-graders read about the history of a haiku, learned the format, wrote their own haikus, and then put movement to it, performing it all at once online. Their teacher, Mrs. Zahrobsky, said It was really cool to see the results! Art teacher Mrs. Glasscock led eighth-graders in a self-portrait match project after providing them with the Google Arts and Culture app (thanks to Mrs. Resnick, our Technology Innovationist), producing hilarious comments from the girls.
Also, Head of Middle School Ms. Macziewski reports that her family has loved sitting outside while at “school” and shares that other girls comment the same, along with going for family runs or bike rides in the middle of the day!
IN THE UPPER SCHOOL
Over the past two weeks, Department Chairs have helped to approve more than 173 students’ Honors and/or AP classes for the 2020-21 school year.
In order to stay connected and build community, a grade-level GoogleChat was started with each of the four Upper School grades. Students are checked on daily via Chat, Student Council members post videos, and teachers meet with them in large groups. Members of Student Council are also brainstorming contests and activities for future weeks to help keep morale up and meet weekly via Zoom to hear from reps how the larger student body is doing.
Class deans and CLC members meet regularly and brainstorm how they can support and encourage their grade level. Fifteen juniors have been moving through the Volunteer Girls State selection process with Head of Upper School Ms. Gordon, which included three group interviews (two in person before we left campus and one via ZOOM with everyone) and individual interviews, and members of the Junior Class have met to discuss plans for Ring Day. The GPS/McCallie Prom committee is continuing to discuss and plan together for an alternate prom date.
Upper School Dean Ms. Vedas has connected with our students, reaching out to every senior, junior, and sophomore individually so far and moving on to the freshman class today. While not all of the girls have responded, this connection with girls individually and in small groups is attempted every day via video chat. Ms. Kerekes has kept close tabs on the freshmen as their class dean.
Advisors check in with their advisees regularly and will continue to meet weekly during scheduled Advisory time. Some of our clubs have successfully held club meetings online. Amnesty International had a great meeting on Tuesday this week!
According to Ms. Gordon, our girls repeatedly express feeling very supported by their teachers and the administration.
A MESSAGE FROM COACH JAY WATTS, ATHLETIC DIRECTOR
While our athletic program is shut down along with our campus, GPS coaches are staying in touch with their athletes through emails and video calls. Our strength and conditioning program has been keeping the Bruisers active under the direction of Matt Green through online classes and numerous updates on social media. Down on the lower campus, construction on our additions to the GPS Tennis Center and the new GPS/McCallie Rowing Center is still taking place through this break. The TSSAA is holding onto hope that some spring sports may play an abbreviated schedule in May, and Spring Fling in Murfreesboro is still on the calendar as of March 26.