Watch administrators and educators from the Bentley School for a lively discussion for parents on how to provide an educational environment for children that fosters meaningful learning opportunities for each student regardless of the future structure of schooling. Learn what the Bentley School has implemented, the factors that contributed to the success of this now nationally recognized program, “Remote Schoolhouse”, what has worked and what needed tweaking along with tips for how to be a proactive parent while a pandemic is still surging across the country.
Read below for a full transcript of the conversation.
Hafize Gaye Erkan - Welcome to First Republic. Speaking of Education series, today our program is titled Online in an Instant where the Bentley School team is going to share valuable insights to help your children be more successful while they learn at home. We are so fortunate to have moderating today's panel. The remarkable Arlene Hogan, Bentley's revered head of school and legend in primary and secondary education and a longtime partner to First Republic. Today, Arlene's team is going to share the best practices adopted by Bentley School that enabled it to quickly reimagine its teaching and learning model. To adapt to this new environment. We understand many of you are working from home and have now assumed the additional roles of teacher counselor, and physical education coach among many others. So today you'll get some very practical help and advice on how you can successfully manage these new demands for your children. It is important that you know, that helping you as parents and clients and helping our communities is integral to our First Republic culture. Particularly in the realm of education, we are committed to supporting education in a variety of ways. In fact, nearly a third of our business lending is to nonprofits, mainly independent schools. This is a unique moment in the history of education. The more we can share, the more we can learn from each other the more we can help our children make the best out of this challenging situation. Now I'm delighted to introduce Arlene Hogan who will lead and moderate today's discussion. Arlene has dedicated her life to education. She began her career as an independent school head in 1984. When she moved to the West Coast to assume her first headship at the Hamlin School in San Francisco. 13 years later, she relocated to Los Angeles to become founding head of the Archer School for Girls. leading that institution through its first decade. Arlene then returned to the Bay area in 2007 to consult with the Bentley School. And was ultimately named head of school. She has also served on the boards of 10 independent schools. Arlene has truly transformed the schools she has led, helping each to find its mission and purpose. Strengthening all of them financially and improving the quality of education for thousands of young people. In addition to serving as President of the California Association of Independent Schools, Arlene is a founder of the National Coalition of Girls Schools. As impressive as all of her achievements are, what is most impressive about Arlene is her dedication to education and her willingness to so generously share her wisdom. She has become a great mentor to me. I personally, and many of my colleagues at First Republic have all gained so much from Arlene's advice and guidance on how to better serve our school clients, their boards, and all of you. And Arlene also helps First Republic with many of our nonprofit activities. Before I turn the program over to Arlene, I would like to share with you a personal story. I benefited enormously from my mother who was a teacher and my mentor. She was the one who checked every page of my homework until the day I left home and came to the United States. I know how much it matters to have parents who get really involved in their children's education and will support them with their time and knowledge. So I applaud you all for being engaged, for doing everything you can to make certain your children succeed in this new learning environment. In that regard, you're in for a treat. We hope what you learn today from Bentley will truly make a difference tomorrow in how you're able to help support your children to keep learning no matter the environment. Thank you.
Arlene Hogan - Thank you Gaye, as always an impressive introduction. I'm never sure who you're talking about. I certainly know you not only as the President of First Republic Bank, but also as a good friend to independent schools. So it's particularly delightful to be here today and to be asked to join in this really important conversation. Let me start out by saying to all of you parents who are struggling through this, this is probably some of the most important work you could possibly be doing for your children. It's a really tough time. And in order for us to move forward, we have to be able to acknowledge that not only what it means for the children that we're taking care of, but sort of getting our own heads on straight about what lies ahead. And I think there are many factors that can contribute to an easier experience maybe a more successful experience for you and your child. But I also think first and foremost, it's recognizing how difficult this time is and congratulating yourself for what you're doing. We're hopeful that today, as we go through the paces of how Bentley was able to pivot so quickly and successfully into remote teaching and learning. The point of it is not to toot the horn of the Bentley School. It is to give you a framework that you can poke at and maybe take some of the best ideas away with you for your individual use.
I'm absolutely delighted. In fact, wouldn't want to be here without my two colleagues. Associate Head of School, Christie Checovich and Assistant Head for Academics, Nick Pukstas. I'm not sure if they're, oh, here we are. Okay, so they will be coming on. These two amazing people are the reason that I think I get up every morning energized to do more for Bentley School and to make our good work that we're doing even better. If there's nothing like having a team. And let me explain to you that before we start we truly are a school that's culture of shared leadership. And I will come back to that again because it really informs how we were able to pivot so quickly. I would also like to say a heartfelt thank you to First Republic Bank, not only for Bentley, but for independent schools in general. I think many of you, probably all of you are First Republic customers. So you know about the excellent service you receive, but I don't know that you all know how many independent schools they serve and that in the 1980s, that was the focus of the bank. I say that because at that point, I'm reluctant to admit in 1984, I was head at the Hamlin School. And so First Republic Bank was just getting its feet wet in terms of independent education. I can't imagine that more. I just can't imagine the rate of failure of schools if we didn't have that support behind us because we are nonprofits. So that said our plan today is to share information about how one school, Bentley was able to pivot. As I said, and what we want to share is how it happened, what we learned in the process, what we're doing differently than we were in the spring, how we navigated the summer and what we see as our next steps. And when we talk about next steps, Nick Pukstas always reminds us it's written in pencil. That when we say that, that means it is subject to change without notice.
And I think that's particularly true in Bentley's case for reasons that I will get into now. So where are we now, in order to understand that. Let we give you a quick framework about the school. We are a very complicated school, I guess all schools can say that but particularly for Bentley in the following ways, we're a school of 700 students. We're a diverse school, about half of our families, self-identify as a race other than white and different political persuasions, quite diverse in any number of ways. We are located in two different counties. Imagine twice the fun of navigating all the rules and regulations about schools. And we've gotten very good at that and we are also on two sides of a tunnel. So that's our claim to fame, on top of all of this, believe it or not, this is our Centennial, you know, talk about timing. We were founded early in the 1900s and have continued a hundred years of excellence in teaching and learning. We're very proud of that history. And one of the things that history has allowed us to develop is resilience. 28 years ago, our K-8 campus, which was our only campus at the time, burned to the ground in the Oakland firestorm. As you know, and I know we're in different time zones, where we're facing some of the horrors of this again, in the Bay area right now. But we were a school that was all but lost at that time. And the only school that has ever had that experience that was able to build back in the independent school system of CAIS. So we're proud of that. We also earned our mascot, we became the Phoenix. We seem to be pretty good at dramatic crashes and then rising. And we'd like to look at our current situation not as a crash and a rise, but a gradual upturn into this new world of remote teaching and learning. Which we know is here to stay no matter what comes next. This will be a big part of everything your child experiences going forward for the rest of his or her life.
And there is some comfort in knowing that all this work that we're doing is not just for now, it's actually for forever. That's how profound the changes are. So again, as a culture of shared leadership, one of the ways that we spend the school resources is training up leaders. Those are our deans, those are our department chairs. Many of whom became the key leaders during COVID. And Nick will talk more about that because he was mobilizing the troops. After the economic crash in 2008, the board of trustees of the Bentley School, of which there are 16 members firmly committed to a path of sustainability. We are not one of the schools that enjoys the luxury of having an endowment, we operate sustainably. And that's a key piece to how we were able to move so quickly. We are actually a small operation. We have about 10 administrators in a school that usually would have 20 at the senior level. We have a strategic initiatives plan that guides us, it's about people, program, philanthropy, it is that simple. It's not about expansion. It's not about building buildings. It's definitely about people. So what does that mean for us? That we do our best to hire high impact individuals and then we give them the chance to be trained up and to grow. Christie and Nick are two outstanding examples of that culture. That allowed us to be able again to have a group of people who could pivot. We also are very careful in expenditures 85 cents of every dollar that we raise goes directly into the classroom. This also allows us to be nimble.
But with a board of 16, whose only employee is me as the head of school, we were able to be very quick. And that that ability to move quickly, again was the thing that allowed us to close on Friday and open completely remotely on Monday. Now, got to go back to a year ago this time actually, it was October, those of you on the West coast. Know that many of our schools experienced the power outages which closed Bentley for four days. Nick, as the academic head of school was horrified that we had actually lost four school days. Imagine that we're not on campus for four days. And at that time we thought that was truly a problem to be reckoned with. We did not want to be in that situation next year. So he made it his personal mission to get us moving forward much quicker than we had been on remote teaching and learning with the idea that we might in fact have to face it this October. It almost seems like a fairy tale. Doesn't it to have just that one problem to deal with, because now we've seen what a global pandemic looks like and all the upheaval that has come with that. But again, it's been a step by step progress. So when COVID reared its ugly head and we did have to close on campus, we were already a bit along in that process of remote learning. And I want to turn that over to Mr. Pukstas because he's the best person to navigate us through this part of the story, Nick
Nick Pukstas - Thanks very much Arlene. And thank you for that outline. And I hope we'll have a chance to fill in some of this a little bit more detailed so that I hope that those of you who are watching have a chance to reflect on the experience you're currently having with this in context, to see where there are arcs of similarity and key differences that you that you can use going forward in helping your own students. So we are going to talk about what worked, but what of course what's lurking behind what worked is, what didn't work. And so we're going to pull back the curtain a little bit on the things that we confronted that we struggled with and how we then hopefully though grew from that and talk about what are some of the silver linings that come out of an experience like this. We certainly get stronger, we certainly you know, thinking about this experience somewhat of as a crucible we do come out of this with a stronger sense of ourselves of our community, of our attitudes that we have about the work that we do for ourselves and how we do it together. So we're going to put that as kind of our North Star for the conversation today. So looking at three big categories, our organizational response. You know, for those of you who are sometimes thinking about your own student’s schools, what are they doing? What's their process like? We're going to give you a look at some of the process that we've engaged.
Arlene's already put our finger on a lot of our shared expectations in terms of this notion of shared leadership. That it's about an attitude that we all espouse from classroom teacher to board of the president of the board that we all feel individual responsibility and ownership over the school in really meaningful, powerful ways. But then talking about how those shared expectations. They manifested themselves in this real challenge of COVID. And then how at the end, how we can coach some effective engagement. This is a really convoluted and confusing time, as Arlene mentioned, everything's written in pencil. So how do you move amongst those challenges to be an effective advocate for your student, to be an effective community member of your school and how to engage effectively? So we did do that online in an instant. I remember we had meetings with the week of March 10th, 11th, and 12th to get ready. Friday the 13th was the day that we went our first kind of soft remote version. Teachers were on campus. Students were at home and then on Monday, we were doing it a full schedule, full academic program on that Monday. And so the things that got us there that we had in our back pocket were technology time and teaching faculty. The three T's, these are reliable things. These are things that always develop. They are worth development and attention, but we did have that advantage in the back, that we didn't know that we would have of this additional challenge in October, 2019 of these public safety power shutdowns. That they were doing targeted rolling turn-offs of parts of the grid. And we were losing teaching days and it was, for me, it was, I just opened up a document. I said, how to not have this happen?
What can we do? How can we articulate curriculum in a way, what can students work on at home? And what can they work on in concert with teachers in different ways to try to bring these things together knowing that power would be a consideration. And I really thought that document would just live until maybe the summertime when I'd had some chance to you know, some free time. And I would have a chance to work on that separately. And it turned out to be the framework for what we did going forward. And some of that pointed toward things that you may be super familiar with. You're certainly familiar with Zoom. That's where we are now. And things like Canvas and Seesaw. These are learning management systems that some of your students schools may be using. There are other products, Google Classroom is another popular one out there. That allow for this collection point and this inflection point for teaching and learning. When we had started development in Canvas for a couple of years, but the professional development process hadn't really gotten the saturation point that was meaningful for teaching and instruction.
It really was at this point a way to coordinate classes, a way to collect some assessments and evaluations, but it really hadn't grown to a teaching space than it is today. And that's really appropriate for grade six through 12. Seesaw is the technology that we use for our lower school students. So on that week of the beginning of the March, we got everybody into our main meeting space and we had to find some way to set the course ahead. Given that we didn't know what was going to happen at that point, we were being told that we'd be closed maybe for two or three weeks. And so it seemed pressured at that time to focus on shared values that would allow us space to breathe and space to then be a little bit creative. So top of mind for us was kind of resetting ourselves to these notions of patience, flexibility and communication. These are things that we would want for ourselves because everyone was nervous at that time about how they were going to perform their own work. We are in a community where everyone just wants to know they're doing the right thing and they're doing the best quality work that they can. And so we focused on that first it's okay, there's going to be some trips. There's going to be some stumbles. And my key motto was don't let perfect be the enemy of good. We're going to take steps of progress. On top of that was, that dovetails nicely into this. This has been a Bentley value for such a long time that we focus on a growth mindset, that it's not about the product so much as the process. And so telling a group of educators that applies to them too is a challenging thing because they hold themselves to extraordinarily high standards. That's how they know they can deliver for their students is that they've already got everything figured out and they know everything that's going on and they can make those guarantees. So again, we were trying to push against, it's okay to be human with yourself. And finally that one of the values that we hope to come out of this was that routine was going to be something that was supportive for us. So we were going to find ways to use our current schedule in new ways. So we weren't reinventing the wheel and trying to do this under pandemic conditions.
Christie Checovich - Just to chime in there. I think one of the best things that comes out of a culture of shared leadership is definitely the culture of shared energy that we relied upon one another to really get through this challenging time. And I think when we realized we were facing a school year ahead amidst a pandemic, one of the best things Arlene did for us is really to say that we weren't going to suffer through this. We were really going to thrive through it and grow through it. And we were going to make the best of what's to come in a school year and model that for the kids. So it was really gaining that sense of energy and strength from one another to take it on.
Nick - Absolutely, and out of that energy and out of that collaboration came a Bentley Remote Schoolhouse. Walking in those meetings in those days, figuring things out. This was a phrase that our upper division had used, remote schoolhouse and just seemed to be a way of capturing that energy. Not that we were going to be distance learning but there were just going to put the heart of our academic program in another place for the time being. And that is something that's been supportive through this period for us as well. So we took the arrangement of our schedule, each class at the upper school for example, this is just for the upper school meets in this arrangement over the course of the week. We meet 50 minutes and then 60 and then a 100 minutes. And when you do it normally in session, in person you know, you just break up your activities differently but when you have the challenge of being remote. You use this time in a different way. So we were using the 50 minutes as a planning session. The 60 minutes as a synchronous session and the 100 minutes as an asynchronous question. And this is terminology that has been really traveled quite a bit since March of this year that many schools talk about this balance between synchronous and asynchronous time. And so what that meant for us the beginning was breaking out that synchronous activity. Was really about making sure that we were still in touch with each other and each other's ideas, the sense of community and classroom, were still married together. And the asynchronous activity, this is going to be the bigger philosophical, pedagogical challenge was how we encourage deep learning and exploration in our students when we can't be with them directly or we can't be looking at it over their shoulder directly. So this was the challenge we laid out for ourselves right at the top. And, you know, it's continued to prove to be a really valuable thing to focus our attention on. And then to go back to Christie's point again about the energy. Wow, I mean, the commitment of these teachers was extraordinary. So we were running up into our spring break by a couple of weeks and the different choices that schools made nationwide for that period. What they did in spring break was quite varied.
And we offered to the faculty the opportunity with the help of a very collaborative board to do some professional development. During that time, we were going to take three days out of our week to do some targeted professional development. We'd been in remote schools for a couple of weeks. We knew what was working, what wasn't working and how could we reframe those problems and really develop and grow over this period of concentrated work. So we had, I think it was 75 faculty members come together. So the vast majority of our faculty members come together to work on projects together. And we ended up formulating this spring gallery of work where one team worked on how to be effective in a video conference. One was how to do assessments and assignments and quizzes more effective in Canvas. And we assembled them into this Google Slide presentation that we called the Spring Gallery that we have is this living document that we continue to tweak and work at and refer to as almost a library of good professional practice in this environment. So that's how we did our time off and that was a springboard for the rest of the spring. A literal springboard that helped us for the rest of the spring. And that dedication was underlining all of that work. So Arlene did mention at the beginning that our mascot is the Phoenix, here is a shot from the upper school gym. That is the stylized Phoenix on the basement, on the floor of the gym. And we got to the end of our trimester, the end of the spring. And we were pretty proud of the work that we had done. It seemed though that the rest of the world didn't have the same experience. This is a headline from the Wall Street Journal. "The results are in for remote learning, it didn't work".
And we looked at this with not a sense of confusion. We knew that what we had done was distinct but we worry too about what kind of message this was sending about the work that we had already completed. So we did a deep dive on our own practice to make sure to do a review, a post-mortem of sorts of how the spring went. So we were thinking, you know what were these challenges of the familiar systems? We tried to project some of them and what were the you know, how do those routines play into some of our decision making? So one of these? We had a bunch of tried and true processes that sometimes didn't work. We had certain ways of addressing students who were encountering academic difficulty, who needed additional support, the way that we had modes of communication with families. And we were pulling all of those strings, but we weren't finding the connectivity of those things coming closer together. So when we got the time to talk about grades, it was a more challenging conversation because we hadn't had the. You can't pull a kid by the elbow and bring them into the classroom to do some review or to do a new strategy for getting ready for the big test. We also at the same time in talking about grades, we decided to hold onto grades as an important part of our academic program. Many schools have gone to pass fail or to some other arrangement to put off that component of their program. And we thought that there were other ways that we could look at this. And one of the underlying features that came from Arlene's direction was the quality of do no harm. And this is a really nuanced idea. And we met frequently about how this would work out. And it ended up taking a really holistic look at every student and seeing what their work had been like previous in the year and how we could be serving and working with that arc and making sure that we were meeting all of their needs with that. So it certainly took a lot of work for us to get there, but the value of continuity of program and engagement in program we thought was a really wonderful way to stay hooked in.
Christie - I just wanted to add that it was such an interesting time as a school, because for the first time we were seeing students who were typically thriving on campus, who were no longer thriving in this remote environment. And then students who weren't necessarily thriving to the best capacity on campus. And now they were thriving remotely in terms of the mode of learning. And so once we realized that we did have students who were slipping we took that challenge on head-on as Nick was describing and figured out a system for it. But part of that system too really relied on parents at home a lot of it had to do with tapping into that partnership at home and understanding what parents were seeing from their perspective of how their student was doing and relaying that information to the student or to the school, through their advisors. Through their teachers, et cetera, that was a critical time for partnership to better support students in the remote landscape.
Arlene - I would like to add to what Christie is saying because that's the essence, I believe of how it worked successfully for I'm going to say 99% of our students. It was taking, I was going to say taking the temperature but we don't use that any longer. It was an individual assessment of where each student was at and also their emotional pulse at that point, because if we had students who could knock it out of the park on campus academically. Some of those students were really in some ways shocked. And in that kind of shock that it's hard to go forward because now they had these challenges that they had never really experienced before, they were easy learners. And that wasn't the worst thing either because the whole idea of the growth mindset is really in this day and age, the one ticket to success, if you believe that you can work hard enough at something that you will get it that will serve you well you know, for whatever you have to learn. Over what could be very long lifetimes. Not crushing the spirits of the learners was very important. Parents played a huge part in that, we started our parent and partnership meetings that were probably I'd say every two weeks or so. We would have a special night remotely for the parents where we would talk about things that they were dealing with. But again, it's instilling confidence. And I want to say so, that I don't forget it at the end, that all of this really comes down to what are we doing for these children, for these students to make them resilient? Because they may forget algorithms.
You know, they may not remember advanced physics but they will remember the feeling that allowed them to move on and to keep going and to persevere. And to understand that you can't go around some things, you have to go through them. Those are bigger lessons than what Bentley is teaching academically. That will not only serve students who are going to great colleges, but onto great lives, because the kind of upheaval that we're all dealing with right now. I don't think will be a one and done, nor does anybody. I'm sure who's on this webinar. We have to teach kids to be resilient. And the two people that you see, Christie and Nick really led that process in understanding the emotional underpinnings of change, but also then modeling how we move forward. And you as parents have to do that every day you're exuding some confidence, whether you're feeling that or not, is really going to make a big difference. Nick, sorry to interrupt.
Nick - No, no, thank you very much. So our next component here was the notion of Goldilocks technology and Goldilocks back to the old tale of being too hot or too cold. We found that in the spring, and maybe you notice this as well that all of these educational companies seem to spring out of the woodwork and when they were offering their services for free. And so teachers who wanted to be sure they were doing the right thing, we're going to every corner, nook and cranny to find the exact right tool for the very thing that they wanted to do. And that ended up with a proliferation of tools for students. So our students typically take six, sometimes seven courses. If they were having a different login for each of those classes and a different tool they're using for annotation or for modeling or for other things. We're talking about logins and platforms numbering in the dozens. So in on our spirit of innovation in the spring we went after all of those things. And then in the chance we had to reflect in the end of the spring, early summer, we realized that we had overdone some areas that we needed to scale back. And then partnering to that too, really a consequence that goes with that was really thinking more about the way that our schedules were working and the amount of screen time that our students were having. We really valued the time that we spent synchronously with our students. And it meant though that students were in front of a screen or video conference from about 08:30 in the morning until the afternoon.
And that didn't sit right with us. It didn't work well for many of our students. We got really helpful feedback from our parent community about the concerns there and really empathetic feedback too that they saw when it was working really beautifully. But we needed to find ways to have a better strategy around it. So we had to go into this period of reflection to do each of those things, to grow where we could, pivot where we could and evolve where we could. Some of these things we knew were going to be long lasting and there were going to be some silver linings from this too. So I encourage Arlene and Christie to jump in where you would like on this one especially. We knew that technology literacy was going to go up big time on this. But this was both for faculty and for students and being on the same page. There always been a little bit of a disjoint about students were with technology, and where teachers were. There were always the sense of the teacher's authority kind of governing things. In many ways, these video conferences and these other platforms were a great equalizer, students were sometimes teaching their teachers about how to, oh, this feature you haven't figured out yet. Oh, I figured out how to do this. And they would show their teacher how to do it. That kind of moment of explanation and partnership there between teacher and student is really great. So that's something that we're going to hold on to for a long time. I heard somebody say from another school, a peer school that I talked to. That they did two years of professional development in about two months. And I would go even further than that. I would say we did about two years in about, you know, two days it seemed and that's stuff that we've had to hold on to. That's earned professional development. That's not a fad that you go away for a weekend. And then you forget about, this is something that we're using every day. Arlene mentioned before parents and partnership, one of these major avenues of communication that we have now. It is so much easier to get our parents together now, to deliver a message that feels very much like face to face because we have voice and we have presentation. We do a weekly communication nonetheless, that's been part of our practice for a long time, but to be able to bring a whole group you know, we had 300 parents in our upper school, back to school night recently. That was a much stronger number than we would have had otherwise because of schedules and travel and dinners. You know this is something that's definitely going to stick with us. And finally, we did push our programming into the summer with this program that we developed called Summer Strong which was a way to keep our community connected. We did six weeks of programming. That was part of students tuition, run by our faculty members. So the payoff was, you know, was many fold that they were really having a chance to keep in those environments but also to have a playful environment with it. We have a summer program that wasn't able to run that was in person. So this was a way of really growing and expanding our sensibilities for the long term.
Arlene - Nick, I would say too, that we avoided a lot of summer slip with that. We were afraid of two things. We knew that many of our teachers despite their misgivings and, you know, they are heroic. When you think of asking someone who's done something for an entire career and done it very successfully to just switch all of that up. And some of the stories that our more senior teachers have shared with the three of us about their actual fright going into this and how comfortable they feel now was also because over the summer, every teacher was involved in a program called One Schoolhouse. Which was carefully chosen because it met our needs. So when the teachers came back it was a different level of confidence and comfort. And you could just see it, our discussions were so much more full. They were happier. They weren't in that nervous state that they had been in, in March. So again there's nothing like the confidence that comes from feeling like you at least have the big parts down. You know, and then you can get better and better at the nuancing. And again, that required paying a lot of attention to where each employee was at and then coming in behind them or under them to try and lift them to a different way of seeing the challenge as a chance to really do something that was exciting.
Nick - And so that spirit of facing those challenges we've continued to focus on that. And so looking ahead to this fall, where we are now, we did end up taking a lot of that parent feedback and redesigning new schedules. K-12 part of this is preparation for whatever time back on campus will look like, in a phased and flexed environment. So that's a big piece, is that our schedule designs have to allow for a phased arrival back on campus so that we can learn these systems ourselves. We can stress test new health and safety protocols and bring them back. But how do you weave that together with a new schedule? That's also mindful of screen time and cognitive load, was a big piece of that too. In our old schedule we had some days that we had seven classes meeting on a day, we had four classes meeting on a day. We knew that that was not really a way that we could proceed. And so we limited that to three classes a day at the upper school and at the lower school, and really talked directly about what was going to be synchronous time and asynchronous time. What would be work that students could do away from the computer screen? Arlene did mention before, One Schoolhouse. And this makes me think too of the piece from the Wall Street Journal that remote education didn't work and almost that it couldn't work. How could it possibly work, that there's nobody out there who are experts in this? And there are in fact experts out there. One Schoolhouse has been around for more than a decade.
They have their own accredited independent school that they run their own programming but they also serve as this wonderful clearing house for professional development. And we've been in conversations with them since April. And they had a wonderful summer offering that worked on hybrid education. And we also were able to use in another way, professional development, that summer strong program. Teachers were able to get into classes online in a way that had less higher stakes. They didn't feel like they were trying to accomplish their own curriculum from the year. But they had a chance to take an individual topic that that they liked and grow that in a different way. So the notion of fun and of adventure back in place. So we had one teacher from the lower school, do a course called Spy School. And he did all of these, you know, kind of inquiry investigation based things in a really fun and inventive way. He had this curriculum before from other summer programming and he transformed it. So he was learning ropes in new ways. So we've looked at our K-12 pedagogy, having coming out of Summer Strong and One Schoolhouse to look at cadences of learning rather than days of the week learning. How do we engage from exercise to exercise and not from day to day. To decouple those notions of days of the week to learning activities. Gives the kind of space and freedom you need in order to be teaching in a remote environment and eventually in a hybrid environment. Asynchronous engagement has continued to prove that's the next plateau that we're still trying to get to. What does it mean to really effectively guide asynchronous engagement when students aren't working directly with the teacher, but still having a sense that they are accomplishing their work? They're meeting learning objectives and that continues to be an active conversation. In this fall, we've still been very eager to continue with our maintaining our transitions or excuse me, our traditions. We've got, as I mentioned before, Back to School Night at each of the three divisions. We did these with Zoom sessions at the upper school. These were individual classes that were run. Parents followed a schedule, moving from room to room. Again, it sense for empathy with their students about how they're experiencing things. We have this annual carnival that we do, last year it was, as the beginning of our Centennial.
It was on the athletic field with games and with cotton candy and those sorts of things. So we recreated that online. It was of a different nature, but the spirit was still the same in a lot of ways. People came away from it exhilarated and exhausted, and we've been making sure that clubs and activities are still there. And this clubs and activities are highlighted last because this is something to be insistent about with your own students. It is not necessarily an enticing thing on first bounce to say like, you really should see if you can still join the film club, see if you can still get involved. Because the default setting is to say, yeah, it just doesn't feel the same. But we know already from the experience we're seeing with our students on campus that that becomes a linchpin, that becomes a handhold. Or a foothold that provides a different kind of contact. Students are hearing a lot from their teachers and their advisors right now. And they need to be hearing the language and the cadences of their own peers. And then once they go to one or two club meetings it feels much more natural, much more satisfying. And so then they go again. So that's one thing I would say, really do push on that. I had a meeting at 13:10 where I'm going to be back to my advisees. I have a couple who've not signed up for clubs yet, and I really want them to be in that space and to be sharing their own story a little bit.
Christie - And Nick, I'd just like to add, I think one of the things that we realized pretty quickly was that you can create community even at a distance and it's actually ever more important just because as you're trying to support social, emotional learning. At a time when things can feel so isolating for students, it's really important that the school is creating these opportunities for connection. And we did that in so many ways, in trying to maintain a sense of predictability in the school schedule with our all school assembly still happening. And our morning meetings for lower school students and starting the day every morning with that touch point with your classmates and your teacher and at the middle and upper school making sure that the advisory meetings are happening at the predictable same times. So there were those touch points. So I think it's something that we're constantly trying to grow in, to figure out how we can create these connections and organic opportunities for engagement amongst the students while maintaining a sense of joy but it's been something that we've been able to achieve. And it's been pretty critical.
Nick - Yeah, thank you. So this next piece, this is one of the more directed segments of sharing our experience as a way of informing. We hope your experience going forward. And it's about communicating with the school and doing that in the most, you know productive and healthy way possible on both ends. And sometimes the difficulty is starting the conversation. It feels like that in the absence of information, sometimes uncertainty develops and that uncertainty can kind of breed on itself and make into frustration. And so we've met recently with a number of school psychologists and psychiatrists who talk nationally. One of them Zoom, is Rob Evans and he pairs these two questions together that I think are helpful for teachers. And it's helpful for parents as well, in embracing this conversation. What is it you're hoping for? And sometimes it's just a resolution to get an answer, it's for some sort of dramatic change or simple change to be made. And then before you make that request or are opening that conversation to come to terms with, what are you most afraid of if you don't get it? And just to have that dialogue with yourself before engaging the conversation. Just so you know, kind of what the two boundaries are for your own frame, and then in terms of conversation or in the last stages of preparation for that conversation. Really assuming good intentions and goodwill all around. I know in our community, we're all pushing ourselves incredibly hard to provide a high quality, engaging academic experience. And an environment for students to grow outside of that. It's a really tall order and so when we've heard from families who start with a recognition of that. I think that we set each other up for really a success in that conversation. It's going to be a productive conversation and recognizing too that we're all in a space where there's a lot of the desire to sometimes displace the struggle I'm having in my own situation. My house is chaotic because I'm trying to do my full time job and I'm educating my children at our kitchen table. That the school has the responsibility to be fixing that for some way in me. And that's really reasonable series of ideas but also recognizing at the same time that communication all around is just going to be really challenging. So I would love to kick it over.
Nick - Sure my watch just talking to me. I'd love to kick it over to Arlene.
Arlene - I would also say certainly with Christie, that Christie first came to Bentley School as our admissions director. And one of the things that she taught all of us was helping parents manage expectations. You know, what are your expectations going in? And I think that is really important very, very important for all of us in this day and age. What are the expectations and what are our fears? If those expectations are not met, if a student doesn't succeed in third grade, in a particular area or whatever. What would the consequences be? And sometimes it's getting realistic about the bigger picture and that is something that schools can help parents with and parents can help. But when I hear Nick talking about, you know, how do you start the conversation and assuming goodwill and checking out your assumptions, is most important to do when any of us are most upset about whatever we think is going on. And it's understanding that there are people in your school, whether it's a public school a private school, wherever it is who want to engage in a conversation with you. I know that when any of us receive emails from parents, that are of the nature of saying, thank you. I know what you're dealing with, you know, really appreciate all that you're doing and then comes the question. There's a wonderful emotional response to that because you do feel you're in partnership and the school can't create that on its own. I can't begin to tell you how many parents have reached out to all of us, the three people on this call, as well as many of our faculty with thanks. And that goes a long way right now because for our teachers, it is well earned.
They are putting in hours the likes of which they probably haven't ever done before because it is requiring you know, one of the teachers said, what are weekends? I don't know what weekends are any longer because no, that's when I do my work and I'm not onscreen. And that's not said even as a complaint, it's the reality of where we are. And part of it, it's exhausting, but it's really exhilarating. And I would hope that you would feel coming off this webinar, any other things that you're involved in that you should be asking, what can I do? I had a really random conversation with a father, not at the Bentley School, just someone who happened to be on a webinar. And he brought up that his son who really was quite talented in math, was getting hundreds on all these things that they had to do at home. And he was worried about boredom. And I suggested that, you know, give the teacher an email and say you know, tell them it's going great, or him what's going great. And then ask for help and the end result of that was a few special assignments. And sometimes it can be fixed and sometimes it can't, but the assumption of goodwill and Christie. I think you're probably the most articulate of the three of us on managing expectations. So I don't know if you have anything to add to that.
Christie - Yeah, I think the story you just shared really touches upon a key component of all this. It's not sending an email list of demands of what's not working. That's not an email that necessarily is productive in partnership with the school. It's reaching out, being grateful and extending an opportunity for a dialogue. I think dialogue is really important here and everybody's having a really hard time right now. And I think everyone working at a school can acknowledge that this is a difficult time for everyone. There's a lot of uncertainty, I can go on and on about the fires, the election the pandemic, you name it, but that doesn't give parents or teachers a license to not be civil or respectful in the way that they engage with one another. So I think it's really important to assume those good intentions and also assume that everyone's working really hard because it's pretty safe to say everyone at the school is working really hard with your student's best interest in mind. So I think getting on the phone with people and it's also going to depend on your school's system and every school has a different system for communication, but I would use that system to your advantage and really trust the school systems. Because they put it in place for a reason.
Arlene - Yeah, and what we haven't gone into and we can just touch on that quickly is the steps that we've taken to ensure a safe return to campus when that time comes. Again, written in pencil, because we really don't know. But what we have been able to do is remarkable improvements in classrooms and in teaching spaces. And I'll let Christina comment on that, but I bring that up because we're a private school. We have the flexibility, we don't answer to a district or that kind of thing. To the public schools. My respect that I've always had has just deepened enormously through this period. And one of the things we didn't mention because we take it for granted was that when we closed on a Friday, we had already surveyed all of our families, every family to know what equipment they needed. They had their equipment on Monday, they were ready to go. We could provide that as the school. We were able to move budget lines, in order to be able to do that. We are not what I would call a wealthy school. We do not have an endowment, but we were still able to do that. So they were set up and that advantage alone was huge. And there are schools scrambling for months to come, through and no fault of their own. Everybody wants to do the right thing. If you don't have the resources to do it. That's another problem that you know, is very sad, very debilitating. And just because I'm particularly fond of this 11th grade boy who started this Eagle scout program that Bentley is engaged in. If any of you in the Bay area would like to donate your used equipment we are partnering with a public school, Garfield School to make sure that all of their students have equipment and our tech director and Cole Foster our student, and a whole cadre of students and teachers are refurbishing this equipment and we're sending it. So we don't have to deal with that. But other schools do. And again, different independent schools have different resources but it's what are you doing with those resources and how can you improve it? It has to have its own starting point. It is indeed a sad time to think that what our students have is not what's available to every student and we wish we could make it so.
Nick - Yeah, thank you very much Arlene. And to look a little bit at that reopening information you know, we're in the Bay area, we're in this process now of balancing waivers that are available for elementary schools and tier systems. So the waiver process is open in Alameda and that has proven to be you know, it's a bureaucratic process. And so it's going to work its way. It's going to work. The tier system is another animal entirely. So we've just found out that Contra Costa, where our upper school is, that's moved into the red tier as of today. So that changes the timelines that we work on. So when we talk about things being written in pencil, this is definitely soft erasable pencil. As we then erase my calendar and then set up a new timeline. We have done a bunch of health and safety renovations on both campuses. We really have gone down to the concrete surface and then polished that concrete surface. So I'll show you an updated image of this classroom in a moment. And also really focusing on the how of hybrid, hybrid has been a word that has really gotten away from its original crafters. It used to mean, a hybrid education between the style of the pedagogy. And then it came to be if you were on campus or were you off campus. Now schools been open for a few weeks, depending on the parts of the country who are trying to do it's really correctly termed concurrent education. When they're trying to teach to a group of students in the room, simultaneously to a group of students, who are at home being simulcast. That's a much more challenging thing and it requires the teacher to have a split sensibility. So that is going to be another challenge for all schools to tackle. And we're going to see how that unfolds as we learn more about what populations can be on campus and how we phase that. We have ways that we're talking about with our schedule, but it's going to be an open question. So I would just call to your attention as you see the word hybrid out there in discussions of education really, scrutinize what they mean by hybrid. And it's not just about who's in what room and the only constant is change. Somewhat of a platitude for you, as we think about this image of the classroom now, this is from the other angle. These are where our classes will be for a little while. I mean, it's beautiful, it's clean, but it's also a stark reminder of how different things are. So I want to be mindful of our time. We have only a handful of minutes left for Q&A, for final wrap up. This is the last picture I took on campus before we closed. This is about, you know, March 11th or 12th. I can't remember which part of the campus, and I didn't know at that time this was going to be the last picture that I took. So I'd like to turn it back over to First Republic or to Arlene and Christie for any final thoughts. Thank you for sharing this time with me.
Christie - Yeah, I think since we have just a couple of minutes there was one great question I'd like to probably close with since we have the time. And it's a nice, I would call it an empathetic question that I really liked to read. So I'll read it to you two and see what we can come up with. But how do we best support teachers who now have pandemic compliance officer added to their job descriptions? I just love this question.
Arlene - Yeah, I think that more than anything it's acknowledging the fact that someone would ask that question is wonderful because it means you're thinking about it and we live it every day. So we understand that we are training people up to take temperatures of students who will drive up in cars. And then if those students are well, bringing them up the stairs and what that means and constantly being on, that's huge. And again, I think that the words thank you have never been more magical. And when people take the time to send these heartfelt and very specific emails or leave phone messages or whatever it might be, you know, it's, you know. The little things are really everything and we know that in our own lives that the little things really are the quality of life. I leave you with this thought that we have a, he's now a trustee but we have a father who delivers donuts every Thursday. This is his tradition and every Thursday people kind of look at each other and think, wow, you know, isn't that great. I mean, it's a donut. You know, we can all get our own donuts. But the fact matter is it means that you're thought about, and you're cared about, and that's what you want for your students. That's what we want for your students. That's what we want for our teachers. And that's what we want you to know from us. We know that you are heroes, you're running your businesses and you're educating your kids and you're in contact with us. And it means the world because, you know, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder. I will let you in on, I don't know if it's a secret. Maybe it's a secret about why our administrative team works so well. We have a rule that only one of us can have a total freak out at a time and we get to decide, you know, when is it your turn? We've all learned in kindergarten to take turns. We're very good with that. We can't all be upset at the same time. And what helps so much is being able to walk in and say, oh, I got this great email. Let me read this to you. This is amazing because it makes us want to do more. So thank you for putting up with us. We are so happy to have the chance, kind of wish we were eye to eye with you all. But we do send our best in the struggle together. And we know that we are going to get to a better place, as schools and as parents and as teachers. Thank you so much.
First Republic - Thank you and thank you all for joining us today. We hope you enjoyed the presentation. Thank you, Arlene, Christie and Nick, and thank you to the Bentley School for continuing your efforts in education and for fostering student growth and engagement in these times. We hope everyone enjoyed the presentation. Thank you, and be well.