Tunstall Honor Council Chair Avery Britt '22 addressed faculty Monday, vowing that the council will work to become more transparent during a year that inevitably will bring questions and uncertainty.
Norfolk Academy's Honor System shapes campus culture, guiding daily interactions among students and between students and faculty. A student-led Honor Council in Upper School reinforces the Honor System for the entire school. The council serves as a model of behavior, challenging peers to raise themselves up, while also adjudicating cases and censuring when necessary.
Members of the 2021-22 council are: Avery; John Bunn '22; Kai Wang '22; Liam Sullivan '23; Annamarie Russell '23; Lily Stockwell '24; and Van Deans '24. Science Department Chair Lew Affronti serves as faculty advisor.
A speech by the Honor Council Chair sets the agenda for the year, as faculty and students work together to sustain the strength of the Honor System. Avery's speech came during the final opening meetings for the 2021-22 school year, the Year of Togetherness.
Among the council's initiatives that Avery explained: addressing the student body early in the year and creating a section for frequently asked questions on the Upper School canvas page, with facts about the council and how it functions.
“We hope that this kind of action will mitigate the basic questions that we often hear as a council while encouraging deeper and more thoughtful conversations about honor and its importance in the institution," Avery said.
Building upon that theme, Avery urged teachers to be as clear as possible when giving expectations for exams and assignments. Among her recommendations: place assignments on the Canvas calendar the Wednesday before they are due; let students know how many questions or what type of assessment to expect for quizzes and tests; be explicit about policy on open notes quizzes and tests; and if possible, provide review early in the year and don't assume baseline knowledge.
The council's logic with these recommendations is that they will calm students who are uneasy entering another school year that has been impacted by the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, Avery said.
“Anxiety and worry are often driving factors to honor offenses, and one way to mitigate that is giving students the most information you can about what they can expect," she said.
Avery thanked teachers for their efforts last year. "You navigated illnesses, hybrid classes, and shortened schedules, all while maintaining impossibly upbeat attitudes and teaching us information that most schools around the country could not," she said.
However, the changing conditions that have been inevitable during Covid have created uncertainty, Avery said. Given that some students were in distance learning last year, while those on campus were learning in a new way, everyone has adapted their study habits. While there is an understanding that school life should return to how things were before the pandemic, that can't be done by flipping a switch.
“On the topic of adjusting to a post-Covid world, the student body has a very general yet palpable anxiety about a 2019-esque school year," Avery said. “As the pandemic has shaped us, the idea of reverting back to our old selves is scary to say the least."
Avery closed with an upbeat message, saying the Honor Council is eager to help bring the Academy community together.
“In a year when the only certainty is that there will be many uncertainties, honor is more important than ever," she said. “It provides stability, community, and a common goal that every single Norfolk Academy student and teacher helps to uphold. In our Year of Togetherness, what could be a more uniting fact than that?"