Dear Parents,

Thank you for continuing to be a part of the SAIS community during this challenging time.

We have now completed our first week with students studying online. We recognize that this is not an ideal situation but it is a problem every school in Shenzhen is facing. SAIS has been blessed with staff who have been able to put together an online program with very short notice and we are already seeing the results. What we have accomplished together in less than a week has been truly remarkable. Unlike some schools, SAIS did not have an online program in place already, but during this short amount of time, school staff and teachers researched online platforms, learned how to use them, and created online content for students. In addition to this impressive feat, Virtual SAIS has also started with some of the same engaging, relevant, PBL instruction that regular SAIS is known for, in a way that is very different and much more interesting for students than what is provided at other schools.

Students are submitting written work, videos and photographs of the work they are being asked to do. Internet connections and access to researching assignments can be a challenge but teachers understand these constraints and there is no penalty for work which is late. Individual feedback is being provided to help students reach for higher levels of performance and where students are fully involved the results have been very pleasing. As we complete our first week back to school and move into our second, and with the technology mostly figured out, teachers will now be focusing on improving their instruction and making it more project-based. Teaching assistants will be spending their time getting more students connected and engaged, offering one-on-one real-time support. Please reach out to your children’s teachers and TAs with any and all questions and concerns, so that we can continue to improve Virtual SAIS. Your feedback is extremely helpful—please feel free to pass along positive feedback as well so that we can continue learning together and providing the best education we can within our current constraints.

We understand that parents have frustrations but our first concern as both parents and as a school is for the safety of our students. Without making light of the problem, in many ways this virus and our response to it is a great example of why PBL is so valuable as an educational strategy. We are facing a real-life problem with both the disease itself and the challenge of how to continue to operate school virtually. When faced with any problem, there is a need to understand the challenge through research and study before coming up with possible solutions that are then tested out and improved upon. With the coronavirus, there is a real problem of a new disease strain, requiring research and study and solutions that reduce the spread of the disease and a vaccine that will offer a cure. With these guiding milestones (reduce the spread) and a final goal (a vaccine), people then research, strive to understand, publish initial findings (mapping the virus genome), collaborate in sharing results with others,  create interim solutions (masks, wash hands, avoid areas of infection), create prototype solutions (new hospitals, areas of quarantine) and finally together offer a solution in a vaccine that is safe and effective. Along the way there will be failures, frustrations, times when we think we have succeeded but something happens and we have to begin again. This process is PBL. It is the same process we used in creating our online program. The challenge was not being able to go back to school, so we had to research the world of online learning, brainstorm possible solutions that we then tested out and are now in the process of improving, with your help.

For students, they are all learning valuable technology skills along with the other subjects they are studying. In addition, all of us are learning valuable lessons about being adaptable, flexible, and resilient. We believe that the educational philosophy and experience your children and our students have at SAIS is one which all those working to combat this virus would recognize as being perfect training in how they are dealing with the threat each one of us is facing today. The best gift, and education, we can give SAIS students is the ability to be able to navigate a future that is unknown and unwritten. We are doing this both in Real Life SAIS and Virtual SAIS by teaching students how to be creative problem-solvers, how to persevere in the face of challenges, how to work with others, how to be great communicators (in multiple languages, using a variety of technological tools), and how to take initiative and leadership. All of these things are being asked of our students during this time.

Please keep the feedback coming about this new online program, and know that we are also looking at how else we can best meet the needs of our students and families in light of this crisis. As we have more information, and educational opportunities, we will continue to be in touch.

We are grateful for your support. As we research and learn, our efforts to provide an ever more effective learning environment for our students will continue to improve.

In Community,