student at whiteboard

From Chicken Coop to Chromebook

Contributors:
Karl Pulkkinen, founding faculty member and current Elementary•Middle School Public School Liaison
Kyle Clark, current High School faculty member and coach

A Day in the Life in 1971

by Karl Pulkkinen

Teacher talking to students
Karl Pulkkinen (top left) in Landmark's early days.

 

6:30 a.m. We wake up our boarding students in Norrie House (now Alexander Academic Center), make sure they wash up, brush teeth, make beds, tidy up rooms, and get ready for breakfast. 

7:15 a.m. A family-style breakfast is served to teachers and students in the small, elegant dining room on the first floor. 

8:00 a.m. Students disburse across what is now the High School campus to begin classes in any manner of buildings, from the stately Norrie House to trailers and even a converted chicken coop. 

I head off to teach two 1:1 tutorials, providing reading instruction using a linguistic approach where my students practice decoding specific patterns in a controlled reading series called Let’s Read. I reinforce the decoding of these patterns with spelling dictations and we practice students’ application with non-controlled reading material. As it still is today, the approach is completely individualized based on each student’s strengths and weaknesses. 

Chicken Coop
A donated chicken coop retrofitted as a classroom space

9:40 a.m. Milkbreak is a welcome daily reprieve for teachers and students who work hard in small classes, tutorial, and a new method of teaching based on the same Six Teaching Principlestm that today provide the architecture for Landmark’s proven approach. Students take a break, grab a snack, and stretch their legs while some faculty meet with founding Headmaster Dr. Charles Drake. Other faculty members meet to share daily news and updates on the routine and students. 

12 p.m. We all make our way back to the dining room for lunch, clear our dishes, and then head to our afternoon classes.

1:00 p.m. My social studies class is held in an office trailer that provides additional classroom space. I use accessible social studies texts that allow the six students to apply their decoding skills. They are learning how to approach the text to glean the main ideas and details and then commit these to two-column notes for future reference.

2:00 p.m. Faculty and staff wear several hats here, and I also teach physical education, which is often held outside or in the “chicken coop” (now the site of Collins Field) in inclement weather. Our new gymnasium (now the Black Box Theater) and classroom building (now the Dudley Classroom Building) are under construction for most of this first school year. 

3:00 p.m. I am on duty every other day and every other weekend. If it’s my shift, I am responsible, along with other teachers, for after-school activities until 5:30 p.m. These can range from taking a group to a local laundromat, leading an outdoor activity, or supervising free time. 

5:30 p.m. Residential students and teachers return to the dorms on the second floor of Norrie House, where we get ready for dinner, which, according to tradition established by Dr. Drake, includes boys and men wearing a jacket, tie, and belt. 

Students take turns waiting on tables and helping out in the dish room. Once again, we dine family style, and at my assigned table, I facilitate polite conversation and proper manners until students are dismissed. 

6:30 p.m. Students return to their rooms for a one-hour study hall. If I’m on duty I pass from room to room on the second floor, answering any questions students may have while they do their homework.

7:30 p.m. After study hall, students may go downstairs to watch TV, socialize with their friends, or stay in their rooms to finish schoolwork, read, or listen to their radios or record players. 

8:30 p.m. We supervise students as they prepare for bed with “lights out” at 9:00 p.m. for our youngest kids and 9:30 p.m. for the older ones.

10:00 p.m. After everyone is settled, I return to my room to prepare my lessons for the next day.

Dr. Drake and his wife, Marjorie, live on campus down the hall from my roommate, Bob Broudo, and me. There is a strong feeling of family on campus, where we are continuously reminded that our students’ academic and social needs are under our shared care and responsibility. 

We are so immersed in our daily lives and work that the first year seems to fly by!

A Day in the Life in 2021

By Kyle Clark 

Kyle in his classroom
Kyle Clarke in his classroom with a healthy dose of cleaning and sanitizing and dizzying classroom tech.

 

Due to COVID-19, Landmark paused its residential program. Under normal circumstances the day would begin for our residential team at 6 a.m. and would end long after “lights out.” 

7:30 a.m. I arrive at school wearing a mask and sanitize my hands before I get out of my car. Setting up my COVID-19–compliant classroom involves turning on the Chromebook in the back of the room and logging into a Google Meet through Google Classroom so my remote students can see the whole room and participate along with those on campus, turning on the projector, flipping on the air filter, cracking an exterior door to create some airflow, and writing the class agenda on the board. Then I make sure to have all the activities I will need during the class open in various tabs on my browser for easy access. I set up another Google Meet (the same one as the Chromebook in the back), which will be used to communicate with the remote students, monitor their attention and body language, and share the day’s material so they can access the same content that the in-person students are seeing on the whiteboard.

7:50 a.m. Once all remote and in-person students arrive, we start with a warm up and then review homework. I typically use Google Jamboard to encourage collaboration and participation from remote and in-person students. We then proceed with our lesson for the day.

As students leave, I wipe down each desk, chair, commonly used spaces, doorknobs, light switches, and my own gear. I then sanitize my hands as I follow the one-way traffic patterns out of the room and on to my next location, Campus Cottage.

students in classroom COVID
Masks become the norm, but our method remains.

8:50 a.m. I settle into my tutorial space and log into a Google Meet, where my student is waiting for me, sitting at an assigned desk in the middle of the wrestling room on the other side of campus. Landmark has developed this workaround to make tutorial as effective as possible while keeping us socially distanced, healthy, and safe. It’s been an adjustment but we’re all making it work. (See “Still Landmark” p. 23). 

9:40 a.m. If it’s Friday, I remain in my tutorial location and attend a Zoom Milkbreak meeting, a tradition that started at Landmark on day one, 50 years ago. Our campus head, Bill Barrett, leads us through announcements and other important information: the awarding of the Silver Bullet to a deserving colleague and Christine Barrett pulls a number from the virtual “bucket” where faculty win money from a pool many of us have contributed to. Despite all of the physical restrictions—we feel connected to each other and our traditions. 

12:15 p.m. I head to the dining room in the Alexander Academic Center (formerly Norrie House), sanitize my hands, am served my food from a SAGE Dining staff member and, weather permitting, take my lunch outside to appreciate the fresh air and an opportunity to remove my mask and eat safely. If I’m indoors, I sit alone in a plexiglass carrel that has been sanitized before and after I use it. The dining room is quiet and strange without the laughter, bustle, and sense of camaraderie that we enjoyed when faculty, staff, and students ate together.

3:13 p.m. At the end of the school day, I remain in my classroom, keep my mask on, and engage in some light-hearted banter with the nighttime custodial manager before I plan for the next day. Some days, I log on to another Google Meet for a film appreciation afternoon activity with students, where we watch and analyze movies.

If it is a Monday, I head down to the Student Life office to make sure students find their transportation home in buses, vans, carpool, and even on the commuter rail. I then walk around the entire campus and make sure all of the buildings are locked up safely. Afternoons are peaceful, contrasting dramatically with what my Mondays have been like for the past five years, managing all aspects of residential life for that particular day. I miss that aspect of my Landmark life, the people I worked with in that department, and getting to engage with the “person” and not just the “student.” 

5:30 p.m. As I prepare to leave for the day, I wipe everything in my room down one more time, including my cell phone, keys, computer, and water bottle. I turn off the air filter, find my car in a dark, cold, empty parking lot, and head home after a long day. 

Life and learning has changed dramatically since 1971—and COVID-19 has added a level of complexity we never could have imagined. But we take comfort in our efforts to maintain the spirit and routines that make Landmark so special and look ahead with optimism to Landmark’s next 50 years. 

 

See more Landmark Stories.

This story was first featured in the Fall/Winter 2020 Lantern Magazine.