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    • Actors rehearsing for Actions Outlive US. Photo credit: Margaret Toft '21

Arts in the Hybrid Model

Craigin Maloney ’21 Arts Editor
Hopkins’ transition to virtual learning last spring threw many teachers into an unfamiliar model without much time to make changes to their curriculum.
Now that teachers have had time to refine their teaching to fit within the constraints of the hybrid model, arts and academic teachers alike struggle to reframe their previous curricula to those more compatible with both online and in-person learning. While academic classes share some similar tribulations, Arts teachers face their own unique sets of challenges that require innovative thinking to optimize the student experiences.

Instrumental Music Teacher Chris DeVona is excited about the “chance to try things we usually can’t do with the full band.” The biggest challenge he's facing over Zoom is that “it forces us to get really creative with how we rehearse since we can't listen to each other while we play,” but DeVona hopes he’ll find “new ways to share the fun with the school.” When asked what he felt might be advantageous about the hybrid model, he was “not sure he had an answer,” but was hoping to find one.

Though Visual Art teacher Jacqueline LaBelle-Young believes that the visual arts have an easier adjustment to online learning than most, she subscribes now more than ever to the ideology that students “get out…what they put in.” To lighten the load on her students during these trying times, LaBelle-Young is shortening the projects so “if a student falls behind or goes through a rough spot they will miss a bit less.” From a teaching point of view, LaBelle-Young is struggling with how to “keep students engaged and...give effective, constructive feedback.” She stated that students need to be more proactive than ever with “seeking out in-process feedback.” To present her students' art, LaBelle-Young plans to use the “Keator Gallery with distancing rules, but if that's not possible, we will rely on the Arts website.”

Drama teacher Hope Hartup has few qualms with the new hybrid model; in fact, Hartup has confidence that she “can still have amazing, creative adventures” with her students despite only having half of them in-person each week. Hartup believes that “the magic of theater is in its ability to adapt to its circumstances - taking a limitation and turning it into an asset.” Hartup believes these assets will cumulate into a “rich and rewarding experience in the classroom as well as on the stage.” This year, the Hopkins Drama Association (HDA) plans on producing two shows, the casting of which “will draw from the Maroon and Grey cohorts. In other words, [Drama teacher] Mike [Calderone] will take one cohort and I will take the other.” Hartup plans “to have performances, in whatever form possible, before Thanksgiving.” As confident as Hartup may seem in her ability to have performances like any other year, she also recognizes that she has very little control over how the year will progress. Hartup lays out the possibilities as she sees them: “If live theater is a go, we might be in Lovell but could easily be in an athletic space or upstairs in Heath. Or, we may have to stream the show in some fashion.” Hartup thinks that “we need… our drama kids to look forward towards new possibilities rather than back towards what used to be” to have “an awesome start come September.”

Woodworking teacher R.C. Sayler is excited to explore the less conventional side of his craft. He doesn’t look at the hybrid model as a burden, but rather a chance to “spend a little less time using the more traditional woodworking machines. This will mean more drawing, planning, and computer design.” Sayler feels all that will happen is that the “focus will simply shift to different equipment.” This year, he is less interested in seeing the final product of what his students create, but is instead “more interested in the students' ability to think critically, and to creatively solve problems. Hybrid teaching, and virtual for that matter, presents us with that challenge - and I am confident we will find solutions.” 

As schools across the nation reopen, educators and students alike are struggling to find new solutions to online learning. While many students will be forced to take a hiatus from perfecting their craft, Hopkins Arts teachers are hard at work to make sure the student body can have a fun and productive year. The arts are even more essential than ever. In Hartup’s words: “Performing arts are absolutely vital to the human experience. They are a means of self-expression, creativity, and community building. Whether as an artist or as an audience member, the power of the arts to raise questions, promote empathy, challenge conventions, as well as its power to entertain, can enlighten and lift spirits.”
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