How Holy Child teaching keeps the human connection alive, even in virtual classrooms

“Difficulties exist only to be overcome.” — Cornelia Connelly

Cheerful, responsible, flexible, patient, loving, hopeful, determined, eager. This is how Mayfield teachers described their students after last week’s initial immersion into remote learning. And, as consummate role models of our “Actions Not Words” motto, Mayfield faculty members are also embracing this unique educational adventure with positivity and resolve.
When Cornelia Connelly asked Holy Child educators to “meet the wants of the age,” she could never have imagined the kind of classes students attended last week. Students and teachers logged into virtual classrooms from their bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. They wore their sweats, brought their pets, and shared smiles and words of encouragement.     

For teachers, the transition to “working from home” isn’t as simple as firing up a Google Hangout and plowing through business-as-usual classwork. There’s a lot of creative teaching and learning going on, and it’s all based on the relationship of mutual trust and respect that Holy Child teachers work to build with each of their students. 

Although they regularly incorporate educational technology into their curriculum, many were nervous about taking their lessons completely online. Despite minor tech mishaps, like accidentally muted microphones or split-screen snafus, our teachers are learning—very quickly—to translate the Holy Child educational philosophy into a virtual classroom setting. They’re doing singalongs, moderating active online group discussions, and using FlipGrid, QuickTime, and Notability to explore the best ways to enhance the online learning experience. 

On the first day of remote learning last week, freshman English teacher Julie Sanchez Brehove ’11 said, “I wanted to get a little creative with how we took attendance and I also wanted them to do something kind of fun.” 

Mrs. Brehove encouraged her ninth-grade students—and their pets!—to commemorate the first day of remote learning with a selfie. She was gratified by the results: “We have a lot of animal friends and we even have some screen collaboration between some of the students,” Mrs. Brehove said. “They're still fostering community, even from afar!”

And history teacher April Garcez says she was impressed by her students’ enthusiastic on-screen participation. “Students were eager to show their work in their interactive notebook for me to check and for their peers to see,” she said.

“Everyone's been doing a really good job so far... I'm proud of the ninth grade for rolling with the punches.” Mrs. Brehove added. Theatre teacher Maryanne Householder agrees, and says she found her students to be “always prepared and ready for anything.” 

Math teacher Emily Baratta Goodell ’99 now appreciates the deeply collaborative nature of her regular Geometry classroom even more. “My major challenge is that I don’t usually lecture—my class is traditionally more interactive and student-led,” she said. “Students need more one-on-one support than usual now because they don’t have the opportunity to ask questions along the solving process.” But she’s determined to find a creative solution. Mrs. Goodell’s message to parents? “Thank you for raising such independent, resilient daughters!” 

As they pursue new ways to connect and share their curriculum, teachers are becoming students. Many have spent their spring break taking webinars and looking for online activities to boost interaction in their virtual classes.

And students are taking initiative, too. Sr. Pegeen Connolly said a few of her freshman World History students weren’t able to find their class meeting link on day one, “but the girls tracked each other down,” she said. “They just texted the access code to the missing students, and I didn't have to.” 

Sr. Pegeen is confident that this temporary period of independent at-home study may have hidden benefits. “I think it will teach students how to take better charge of their learning,” she said.

In a special video message to our incoming Class of 2024 Cubs, ASB President Rory Burke ’20 shared how the Mayfield spirit is keeping us buoyant. “We have such an amazing and supportive community and everyone just genuinely loves each other and supports each other.” Rory said. “Everyone's just trying to brighten each other's day and make moods brighter and lift spirits up.” 

Our faculty members are all looking forward to hallway hellos, hugs, and high-fives when we get back to Bellefontaine—but in the meantime, they’re finding and sharing innovative online ways to leverage the deep human connections that are the foundations of Holy Child education.
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Established in 1931, Mayfield Senior School in Pasadena, CA is a Catholic, independent, college preparatory school for young women grades 9-12. Noted for its rigorous academic program, which includes 28 Advanced Placement and Honors courses, Mayfield’s curriculum is underscored by a philosophy of educating the “whole child,” which also encourages commitment to and excellence in the arts, athletics, community service and spiritual growth. The nurturing environment at Mayfield Senior School allows each student to flourish in an atmosphere of personal attention.