#JoyFromAfar: Supporting Families Through a Virtual Admissions Process
Pictured above, the admissions team, Fall 2019.
By Rob Wise, M.Ed., Director of Enrollment Management
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Joy School switched to online learning and our admissions team also pivoted deftly to continue to support incoming parents and prospective parents through a virtual admissions process. In this blog post, part of our #JoyFromAfar series, Director of Enrollment Management Rob Wise answers questions about how the admissions team has adjusted their process in light of COVID-19 and continues to provide a virtual experience that allows them to understand the prospective family deeply and build relationships with them while also providing tools and opportunities for the family to remotely assess the School and fit for their family.
1. How did the admissions process change due to COVID-19?
Given the precise and detailed nature of our admissions process, the personal connection we need to make with each parent and child has been altered. We review each file thoroughly before meeting each student, so we have a solid understanding of their cognitive profile, the parent experience, information about their child and feedback about their academic profile from current and former schools.
Normally we meet with our applicants for at least an hour to engage with them in our unique Joy School way. We hold a one-on-one interview and take a deep dive with each applicant to gain more understanding about what they need from The Joy School and what we can offer them. Most of the time, we sit next to our applicants to get a true understanding of who they are and how they think. Our time together also reduces applicants' anxiety about school. The distancing policies brought on by COVID-19 have changed this practice.
Now, after reading each file, we meet with students virtually. This is difficult given that many students experience some amount of anxiety in a regular setting, let alone our current reality. The positive side is each student can be at home, where they are more comfortable. Because our Director of Admissions Christine Pratt is a former classroom teacher at Joy, she has the skills to engage with students in any format. She can work with applicants from kindergarten to eighth grade and assess where they are and what they need. It's truly amazing to see how she can work with children who might be distracted and have tremendous anxiety about school and learning.
After the initial interview, we normally schedule another on-campus visit in a classroom for our applicants. The main purpose of this visit is to help our potential students feel relaxed at Joy and experience the difference between their prior educational experience and The Joy School. In our new reality, we transitioned from our normal on-campus visit to a virtual visit. Our teachers make time to meet with students online and talk with them about their interests, hold a two-way show-and-tell and let them see how we approach teaching at Joy. Because our teachers are so adaptable in their role at school every day, they have been able to quickly change their style to continue to engage students online. While our tools have changed, our relationships have not.
"While our tools have changed, our relationships have not."
2. What are the important aspects of the admissions process at The Joy School that parents should know at this point?
It is important to know we are taking extra care to ensure an equitable process for our applicants in our new, virtual format. We continue to work with each family remotely as we would during a normal admissions process. The admissions team is adaptable and has full confidence in our teachers and school community to support each family with their academic and social needs.
We are holding virtual tours and events for prospective and new families and will continue to engage through the spring and summer to make this a smooth transition.
3. Given the unique mission of the school, how are the needs of students being met from afar?
Watching our teachers and academic administration has been a truly empowering and positive experience. Our teachers continue to work with their students in virtual classrooms, one on one and hold well-attended social gatherings online. In addition, teachers and our Deans of Students and Family Support, Laura Gray and Stephanie Malveaux, are working as liaisons with students, teachers and parents to support their academic needs at home to reduce anxiety and support their child's learning difference at home.
Our Transition Coordinator Andrea Dorr continues to support families as they prepare to transition to new schools in the fall. She has already attended ARDs and is helping parents learn how to advocate for their children.
4. What value do students and parents receive from attending The Joy School?
There are so many benefits in attending The Joy School. On Head of School, Shara Bumgarner's, office window, she has a message that reads "At this school, you will be loved." The part that isn't written there is "...for who you are already." This applies to students, teachers, staff and parents. Given our unique mission and culture, this is absolutely true. Students and parents will be met where they are with compassion and love. We work hard to understand how we can help and empower them to be successful beyond The Joy School. Watch this video to learn more.
Joy School students learn the skills necessary to have continued success while here and when they leave for the next great thing. Many of our graduates report using the skills they learned beyond the classroom in college and their professional lives. Beyond academics, our teachers and staff empower students to become more whole than when they arrived through our Keys to Success.
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About the Author
Rob has been an educator for the past 15 years in public, magnet and independent schools. He began teaching Theatre Design at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston before becoming the Chair of the Theatre Department. Following his time at HSPVA, Rob moved to Friendswood High School where he taught Project Lead the Way Engineering and Chaired The Career and Technology Education Department. While at Friendswood High School, he became an Assistant Principal serving a large group of students in their journey toward graduation. He entered the admissions world as the Director of Admissions at Annunciation Orthodox School. Currently, Rob is the Director of Enrollment Management at The Joy School.
Rob is the proud father of Robert, Maryn and Ava and grateful husband to Meredith.
Houston Area Independent Schools Admission Directors
Admissions Leadership Council
The Enrollment Management Association