In Her Own Words…
By Jenifer Fox
Early March 2020 seems worlds removed from today, but I still carry the first images of the COVID-19 crisis with me as a reminder of what Berkshire Country Day School is really about. First, we cancelled the grades 7-9 trips and I watched in amazement as disappointed children showed up still wearing smiles and eager to come to school. As the news spread that we needed to wash our hands more often we began our Moment of Prevention complete with a rap song sung by Ms. Doherty. We immediately stocked up on disinfectant, sanitizer and tissues before the shelves emptied and the prices soared. The daily handshake became an elbow bump and those daily bumps are the memories that carry me through moments of anxiety during social distancing.
The elbow bumps were every bit BCD. There were no instructions or explanations. I simply held out my elbow instead of my hand. In return, I received creative interpretations so exemplary of the students we serve. One student tapped my elbow three times. Another spun around before extending his arm toward mine. A few kids took full on body slams, but being only 3 feet tall it amused me. One student drew a question mark in the air with her elbow before bumping mine, while another jumped in the air. I decided then that elbow bumps were here to stay. How little I knew when I made that small decision. All I was aware of was how liberating it was for the kids to greet me in a way that allowed for their unprompted self- expression. Oh, how I miss those elbow bumps!
Over the past month I watched in awe at the way our faculty scrambled to deliver a meaningful, engaging curriculum. They took classes, watched webinars and scoured the Internet for new resources, all the while questioning whether or not it is “good enough.” It’s not good enough. It’s the best.
We agreed early on to approach the pandemic as an opportunity to try new things. Our aim in delivering the program is the same at a distance as it is in person: teach the individual. That is why some of our teachers are doing one-on-one coaching sessions online. Others are preparing individualized packages for parents to pick up. In some cases, we even deliver. I’ve heard sighs and we’ve taken some deep breaths, but nobody on our staff has complained about anything except not being able to see the students. And some have ameliorated that by driving by each student’s house to say hello. What is there to learn from this? We care. It’s more than just words: our actions show we care.
Someone asked me last week about the value and importance of an independent school education in an environment such as this. That’s an easy question for me to answer. Education matters. Personalized education with attention placed on the individual matters now more than ever. Schools are not charity organizations, they are part of an important social cause. Independent school education allows us to pivot quickly and blaze the trail that we see will get us as far as we need to go in the shortest amount of time. And the world needs this more than ever. The world needs highly educated people to discover cures, invent therapies and create social networks that will sustain all of us in times of trouble. If this virus has one thing to teach us, it’s that quality education is what will save lives. For every child who begins life with a great education, there are hundreds, thousands who will benefit from that start later on. When I think of the doctors, scientists, lawyers, creatives, etc. who are ready today to deliver us from the worldwide situation we are in, I bow to the teachers who prepared them. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring but we do know that we will continue to need highly educated, engaged citizens to pull us through hard times. High quality education is a cause worth celebrating, supporting and for which we are highly grateful. Thank you to our teachers for showing up and continuing to do the good work of the world even at a distance.