Innovating in a World of 'New Normals'

Schools and educators around the world have all faced an incredible number of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Here at ASH, we are so grateful that we have been able to begin this school year with safe on-campus learning and experiences for our students. At all times we are prepared to pivot to our alternative models, as we remain dynamic and above all prioritize the health and safety of our community. These last several months have shown us that the ability to adapt and change is more important than ever before, so much so, that this month we wanted to shine a light on the wider theme of innovation at ASH.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Ms. Coyle, our middle school principal, and discuss how her division has responded to the challenges of returning to campus this school year. We focused on how her team has embraced innovation and pushed their thinking in order to deliver two important middle school traditions at ASH: Project Week and Open House.

Front and center in the minds of all staff members’ minds since coming back to our on-campus learning model, has been the health and safety of our students and everyone in the ASH community. Our middle school staff made the decision to proceed with Project Week in May with the provision that it would be possible to carry out safely and in a different format to years gone by. This treasured tradition is a defining experience for middle schoolers and is a unique opportunity to build community and for our ASH students to push their boundaries. It usually takes the form of a week-long trip to different locations around the Netherlands, including overnight stays. 

This, of course, had to be re-imagined and this year’s week was a more local affair, with no overnight stays but no less fun, community-building and spirit-raising. Ms. Coyle spoke very highly of the terrific project leaders and other middle school staff who rolled up their sleeves, put their thinking caps on and innovated to plan this year’s activities. “It was an exhausting week! But it met our goals and allowed us to innovate and try something different”. It goes to show that through the whole experience of the pandemic, there are silver linings that show themselves. It provides an opportunity to try a different way of doing something and to learn from this.

Speaking of trying a different way of doing things, Open House across all three divisions had to take on a virtual look this year. From the middle school perspective, Ms. Coyle spoke about how this evening in years gone by has only been a parent experience, but this year with the event being online, nearly 80% of the parents surveyed said they watched some of the videos with their children. The virtual nature of the evening also allowed for more flexibility in attendance, with parents able to watch the videos and get to know their child/ren’s teachers at a time that worked in their schedule. But of course, our families missed getting to meet and know each other in person. There are always many learnings to take from an evening such as this and as we navigate the times ahead, the need to innovate and have an open mindset to solve problems and respond to feedback becomes more and more important. That is why we love how highly innovation is valued here at ASH!