Norfolk Academy's Honor System is a bedrock of campus culture, shaping the countless conversations that take place each day between students and in student-teacher interactions.
Because of that importance, it is crucial that honor be held in the highest regard during distance learning, Honor Council Chair Maddie Brooks '21 told faculty on August 24. Maddie's speech followed a school tradition of the Tunstall Honor Council chair addressing faculty to set the agenda for the school year, followed by an address to the Upper School once the year begins.
Our student-led Tunstall Honor Council plays a formative role in reinforcing the Honor System for the entire school. The members of this year's Council are as follows: Maddie; Ella Deans '21; Tyler O'Boyle '21; Avery Britt '22; Kai Wang '22; Annamarie Russell '23; and Liam Sullivan '23.
During her speech, Maddie offered suggestions for how to maintain an emphasis on honor in the different and unusual environment of online learning. In 2020-21, Academy families can send their children to campus or let them study from home via our enhanced Distance Learning program.
Faculty and students must work together, Maddie said. Among the Honor Council's ideas: More open notebook assignments, and test questions should be subjective whenever possible. That would allow students to think them through and prevent reliance on the internet for answers.
She also suggested that students type a full honor pledge for every assignment and asked that teachers be present on Zoom during online testing, so they could help if questions arise. Last, she suggested making all exams virtual, so students are on the same level whether they are in class or at home.
The overarching idea is that testing should be secondary to learning, Maddie said.“We are looking forward to starting off strong and we would not be able to do it without your support."
Before Maddie spoke, Headmaster Dennis Manning reinforced the value of the Council and Honor System. He called the Chair's speech and Council investiture part of the rhythm of the opening of school.
“What a blessing it is to the institution to have this," Mr. Manning said, noting that ongoing conversations between teachers and students, grounded in truth and trust, are a hallmark of school life.
Mr. Manning thanked Maddie for her honesty, and said everyone is still learning about best approaches for the online system. When faculty asked the Council members questions, most centered around distance learning.
Student attitudes about honor seemed to grow more relaxed in the spring, Maddie said. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Academy and schools throughout Virginia to move courses online from mid-March through the close of the 2019-20 calendar.
The Council's goal is to emphasize the principle that honor is just as important online as it is in person, Maddie said. Regular faculty reminders about the Honor System would be beneficial, she said.
In closing, Mr. Manning acknowledged that this obviously will be an unusual school year. But he thanked the Council members for their ideas and promised that faculty and administration will work to provide any support necessary. “We're in good hands this year," he said.
To learn more about our Honor System, please visit our website.