Photographer: Marcia Carlson
ASD adjusts academics, traditions due to Coronavirus
The coronavirus has taken the world by surprise, and that is the way it felt for many at the American School of Doha. There have been many changes to how students and teachers maintain their learning online, but the most monumental shifts of all have been the changes to AP and IB examinations, as well as the way senior traditions and graduation have been altered.
Some teachers have found fun ways to adapt to the situation and have been paying more attention to students’ psychological and emotional needs. Ms. Karma Wood, MS and HS music teacher, states, “I did a scavenger hunt over Zoom that got the students up and moving and then gave us a good laugh and smile as we shared our object. I also send emails to my students to check in on them especially if I notice something in their daily videos that looks a bit off or if they mention something in their exit ticket.”
Ms. Wood has been able to connect with her students and provide both educational and emotional support virtually. The extra focus that teachers like Ms. Wood give students, as well as the collaborative opportunities in virtual learning, prove that it is an effective and necessary method of schooling at this time.
Changes to AP and IB Examinations
The changes to AP and IB examinations have been extraordinary. Normally, these annual examinations are taken within school parameters with teacher proctors. However, with the recent changes due to the coronavirus, IB examinations are officially canceled and AP examinations were shortened to 45 minutes and taken online.
The changes in AP and IB examinations evoked different reactions from teachers and students. Impressed by how the AP has adjusted to the change, AP coordinator Heather Saur says, “I think the AP handled this really well. I think that it was really helpful that they had moved the entire registration online so that all students were already in contact with the College Board through AP Classroom. There was already a mechanism in place for that communication to be able to offer the exams online.”
IB coordinator, Ms. Katrina Charles shared a somewhat different reaction to the cancellation of IB exams. She said, “It’s bittersweet. I think it’s unprecedented. I mean, IB has been around since 1968, and this is the first time we have ever canceled exams. …I was here for the swine flu and SARS, and it didn’t cancel. It didn’t cancel! so that’s why I was shocked.”
With the shocking news have come consequences. Some people are already concerned about the future of AP and IB examinations. Ms. Saur acknowledges that the change of having AP exams opens the opportunity for open-book learning. She said, “The free-response questions, [the only form of testing this year], show that you really understand how it all comes together, and how it synthesizes — the importance of analysis and being able to use your knowledge. That’s important, and those are open-book skills. Those are skills that you need to have in life in general.”
Both Ms. Charles and Ms. Saur have advocated positivity in this tough time. “I would say, make the choices that are best for you,” said Ms. Saur. “The most important thing is your health and well-being. The most important thing is your mental health and your emotional health. Contact your universities, and find out if they’re going to honor the credits gained if you pass or get a three or higher. If it doesn’t matter to universities, then think about what works best for you.”
Ms. Charles ends on some encouraging advice: “With my IB Year 2 students, I want to say to them, they have started off as a very unique group because of this whole graduating situation. Nobody is going to forget the Class of 2020. They’re going to go down in history. It’s a moment for them to reflect, and really start thinking about what my objectives are. Why am I here? What is my purpose? Here’s an opportunity to have more or less a clean slate, because we are now going to be paving a way for all students that follow us.”
Changes in senior traditions
As a student in ASD, you anticipate the day you can partake in all the senior traditions. The senior walk, where you march around the entire campus singing celebratory chants, and most importantly, the graduation ceremony, where the graduate is able to walk across the stage to receive their diploma. ASD seniors of 2020 have been devastated by the changes to their senior traditions.
Small but fun customs had to be dropped entirely. This year’s seniors never got to make a senior walk or participate (as SENIORS) in the annual Powderpuff football game.
Among the changes in senior traditions, the biggest must be the graduation ceremony. Instead of walking across the stage to receive your diploma, ASD seniors graduated virtually. In a Zoom assembly for seniors with the high school principal, Michael Roberts, he encouraged a group of seniors to work closely with the admin to suggest any ideas they would have when planning the virtual graduation.
Among eight seniors that chose to partake in this, M. Amani (‘20) and E. Ali (‘20) were able to give insights into the planning process.
Ali explained, “I remember when Mr. Roberts first sent his update emails, and it said that we are potentially looking towards virtual graduation. That’s when I emailed him immediately because, in my head, I refused the idea of having a virtual graduation.
“We looked at so many other possibilities, other means for another graduation–having it in the winter, having it during July, having it with the class of 2021. We were so reluctant to have [a virtual graduation]. And then after a certain point, he contacted me and said, ‘We want to hear from you.’ That’s when I realized we seniors, we want representation. And we want to be at the table with admin deciding whats going to happen to us and our graduation.”
Amani agreed that it was hard to accept, but that the class wanted to put their mark on the ceremony. She said, “Basically, Mr. Roberts asked Eyad to create a group of senior representatives that he thought would be able to participate in creating and organizing this virtual graduation. For me personally, I decided to help out because I thought, well, if we can’t have a real graduation we might as well make the most out of our virtual graduation, and try to the best we can with the circumstance that we’re in right now.”
So yet another opportunity, another first, was the chance for ASD seniors to take part in the planning process of their own graduation ceremony. It did not all go perfectly.
Ali explained, “[During] our first Zoom conference, we gathered all the members of admin, like Mrs. Jan Farmer, Mr. Paul Kasky, and Mr. Michael Roberts, and we set up a Google doc with a list of things that we wanted to ask them and things to propose. A lot of it was rejected, and I’m not going to lie about that. Some things that we wanted to do, we were told just flat-out no. Some of it was understandable, but some of it was things that we thought could’ve happened, but due to circumstances, they didn’t. But overall, I liked, for the most part, they took into consideration our ideas, but at the same time there was a lack of communication.”
Although the planning process was difficult, eventually the senior representatives and admin came to a final outline for the virtual graduation ceremony. Ali said, “Graduation this year will be all prerecorded, so it’s going to follow more or less the same sequence of events in a usual graduation ceremony, except all the speeches and all the events are going to be prerecorded.”
The planning document for virtual graduation and the schedule for that day can be viewed in this document: Virtual Graduation planning.
Although this is not the graduation ceremony we seniors had pictured, many seniors appreciate the efforts of our senior representatives and our supportive administrators.