Distance Learning: Teacher Bob Tam’s ’67 Message to Students

Faculty member Bob Tam ’67 teaching sixth graders from home.

Faculty member Bob Tam ’67 wrote a message to his sixth-grade students as Punahou continues with distance learning for the first time in the School’s history.

“More than anything, our days so far have let me know that when the chips are down, the human spirit rises. And the chips are certainly down. We teachers spent almost all of spring ‘break’ preparing for our launch into online teaching. Administrators were clear with us that we should take a rest from the teaching world, but I don’t know anybody who did. We attended online classes, tried out new technology and re-wrote our curriculum for the rest of the year. We anticipated every sort of technical glitch and student confusion imaginable when we started up on April 1 – the cruelest April Fools joke ever.

We had digital tools that worked with few problems, and you students helped us through so many situations:

‘Mr. Tam, if you go to the ‘Participants’ menu you can Mute All.’
Thanks Parker.

Mr. Tam, I got an email from Tiffany; she’s trying to join the meeting and is going to log out and log back in.’
Okay, thanks Sofia. Oh… hi Tiffany.

On and off WebEx, you have accepted the transitions from physical to virtual spaces. I liked the assignment where you created an Andy Goldsworthy-like sculpture, inside or outside, and took a picture of it. Forty-five minutes later, we had a creative gallery of artwork using ‘found’ materials from playing cards and pencils to leaves, rocks and flowers.

Unlike you, however, I am tethered to my computer all day, from seven in the morning until eleven at night with breaks for meals and exercise. I am endlessly tap, tap, tapping at the keys to write a lesson, an assignment, an announcement, an email, learning to use Webex and Canvas and anticipate your questions. But it’s been worth it seeing your engagement and good spirits. I love laughing with you again and having you share your thoughts and screens, and I love being able to ‘mute’ you with a single click.

See, we haven’t changed that much. The best part of all is knowing that the partnership we built in the classroom continues in this new environment. We can distract our minds from the pestilence lurking outside by carrying on in our own world of academia. We are like characters in some dream book; we can give ourselves courage, but the plot is being provided by forces beyond our control. I’m glad to be able to write the next chapter with you.”

Mr. Tam

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