Academic Insights: TCS Social Sciences Department

Videos used in the Canadian History course to teach Truth & Reconciliation

The educational experience at Trinity College School has certainly undergone some extraordinary but essential modifications in order to preserve some “degree of normalcy” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not surprisingly, teachers lament the relative ease with which instruction was once delivered and the experiential variety that could so easily enhance lessons. However, under new health restrictions, classrooms themselves have wisely been altered to allow for appropriate distancing and these precautions have necessitated overflow spaces for larger class sizes; understandably, this presents some logistical hurdles that require clever adjustments to traditional teaching methods. For instance, how does one deal with the deafening echo that accompanies teaching in the upper gym and record this same lesson for students bridging in from home? Or, how do student presentations, once rudimentary classrooms staples, get synchronously projected to multiple classrooms and delivered to numerous households in different time zones without losing their pedagogical effectiveness? These are some of the regular challenges that teachers and students are facing together, and this partnership has ensured that learning remains positive and meaningful as ever.

Fortunately, the social sciences department is blessed with innovative teachers who have spent hours adapting lessons to engage students differently this year. The incorporation of virtual versions of experiential learning are helping to preserve and reinforce the department philosophy that a “hands on,” student-centered approach is paramount. Teachers have also been busy embedding Indigenous discussions into their respective disciplines to better address the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Lessons revolving around systemic racism are not uncommon in the American history, world issues, or equity and social justice classes, but the Black Lives Matter movement has generated new levels of awareness in the current curriculum and these discussions are ever-increasing.

In terms of personnel, new to the department this year in the role of faculty associate is Dr. Andrew Woodward. Dr. Woodward is primarily helping in the philosophy, anthropology/ sociology/psychology and world issues classrooms along with handling the bulk of class coverage. He is a gifted academic whose talents extend well beyond the social sciences and humanities. Additionally, the department was thrilled to retain Mr. Conor Eustace and Mr. Elias Aboud from last year; together they are performing regular faculty associate responsibilities while also teaching politics and Grade 11 Geography: Forces of Nature while Ms. Melissa Papp is away on parental leave.

Although much of 2020 has been spent massaging the delivery of curriculum, students have demonstrated remarkable flexibility and perseverance throughout, proving that they are more than capable of partnering with teachers and keeping in step with each “pivot.” These are indeed unprecedented times but our classrooms have never been cleaner!

- By Mr. Blair Keiser, head of social sciences