AcademicsDec 21, 2020

updated Aug 9, 2021

Adapting our curriculum

A glimpse of what teaching and learning look like during a global pandemic

How do teaching and learning happen during a pandemic? With a little bit of creativity, a lot of reimagining, and a dose of flexibility. All are in the wheelhouse of the Miss Hall’s faculty.

The universal disequilibrium caused by the pandemic saw teachers come together, collaborate, learn, and develop new ways to deliver curriculum, interact with students, and work with colleagues. And, did they ever respond.

They reimagined what they are teaching and how they are teaching it, using new technologies to break down the barriers of geography. Students benefited from direct access to professionals in their natural habitats: artists in their studios, specialists at their places of work, brain trusts in their home offices. Here are some examples.

Tapping the experts

Keeping the campus safe meant no visitors to and field trips from campus, but that didn't stop teachers from putting students in touch with experts in their field of study. Instead, they got creative and brought community expertise and experience into the virtual classroom. A few of the many examples included:

  • Artist Nickola Pottinger and designer Ekin Tumer ’15 met virtually with the Gallery Class.
  • Artist and curator Will Hutnick, Brooklyn-based arts professional La Keisha Leek, and recent graduate (and textile artist) TK Visuthiwat ’20 visited Studio Art II/III.
  • Andrea Zhang ’18, a photo major at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and photographer Bill Wright (father of Paige ’21) visited Photo I/II.
  • screenwriter and playwright Nannina Gilder visited Filmmaking.
  • Hanna Sobolieva, a designer in Ukraine and mother of Diana ’21, met with Textile and Garment Design.

  • Asata Evans ’14, entrepreneur and founder of AxV Beauty, visited the Hatchery Horizons site.
  • Melissa Parrott, founder and Executive Director of Students for Climate Action, joined English IV: Literature and the Environment.
  • Local artist and writer Laura Didyk met with Studio Art I.
  • MHS Director of Horizons Alison Basdekis (also the co-Owner of Shaker Creek Farm) and Vivian Hou ’18 (MIT Class of 2022) met with the Hallmark Environmental Science class.
  • Hallmark Art intensive hosted potter and illustrator Sarah Haze and visual artist Molly Almeida ’15.

What the students are saying

Gallery student Keren Skeete ’21 with three takeaways from Nickola Pottinger's visit —

• Sometimes the end product is not as important as learning from the process.
• Challenge the norm; take something in everyday life and do something different with it.
• Learn about yourself through the art, challenge yourself, take a leap of faith, and be spontaneous.

Serious research in serious times

Hallmark Humanities students take deep dives into subjects of personal interest, guided by History Teacher Michael Alexander, Ph.D., and English Teacher and Leonhardt Family Teaching Chair Rebecca Cook-Dubin, who co-teach the class. The students’ topics during the 2020-21 academic year were pretty impressive.

  • Emma Adelson ’21: gender inequalities in veterinary medicine
  • Alessandra Alicia ’21: forced sterilization in Puerto Rican women in early 20th century
  • Rose Aloo ’22: persecution of Jehovah's Witness followers through the 20th-21st centuries
  • Truc Hoang ’22: the legacy of the Vietnam War through the eyes of Americans and the American media
  • Hannah Holt ’21: the sad clown paradox — comedians, depression, and the psychology of laughter
  • Olivia Kick-Nalepa ’22: the growing » empowerment of female dancers and ballerinas in the context of sexism, racism, and Eurocentric ideals
  • Selina Li ’21: vampires in 17th-19th century literature and their reflection of society's fear of nonconformity and “the other”
  • Juju Qui ’21: the depiction of demons in Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens through the lens of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica.
  • Jiho Shin ’21: the history and dominance of Korean Hagwons and their impact on youth's mental health
  • Cailyn Tetteh ’22: Gen Z and the consequences of hyperconnectivity and stan culture
  • Phuong Vo ’21: oppression and government control in contemporary dystopian young adult novels and the social justice impact on teens
  • Ivy Zhou ’22: a comparison of Chinese and U.S. responses to teenage depression

A few minutes with ...

History Department Chair Matthew Rutledge P’08, ’11

On teaching his new Hallmark Democracy course around the recent U.S. elections: “Just like elsewhere, the topics of most importance to our girls include racial justice, the coronavirus, and our place in the world. These issues clearly matter.”

“The level of interest and the depth of feeling surrounding this historic event are astonishing: I feel better about our future just watching these kids work.”

On the pivot to a hybrid teaching model: “I teach an online cohort in the morning, and then I teach an in-person cohort in the afternoon, so those classes have a tendency to go in different directions within the same framework. This lets me adapt to whatever happens in different ways, and this feels rich, to me.”

What the students are saying

Studio Art II student April Harwood ’23, with three takeaways from Will Hutnick’s visit —

• I liked that he let the little accidents, like the strings of the canvas that he was talking about, be part of the art.
• I liked that he used his paint palette as art so that he didn't have to start with a blank page it’s a good idea that I want to try because I feel uncreative when I look at a blank page.