It’s 7 days into schools being out during the Coronavirus outbreak. I have to admit it feels different than during any other point in my career. We’ve had those usual long summer vacations, various holidays, and even some brutally horrible winters where students seem to miss a day a week for the entire winter season. But again, this feels different. I just read that in the 228 years of the New York Stock Exchange, on Monday, March 23rd there will be no trading from the floor. This may not be significant for many of us, but it shows how truly unique this time in our world has become. It’s hard to imagine any school district or business being truly prepared for what’s happened. As an educator, I feel comfortable in saying, “school districts, students, teachers and parents are waking up to a totally different time of teaching and learning. But, it’s how we adapt and work together that will bring us all closer together!” Let’s face it, no matter how much planning school districts have done, the Coronavirus has shaken education on its head.
Up to this point, schools have, for the most part stuck with similar instructional methods to teach and reach children. Sure there have been huge advances in giving students choice, allowing for project based learning, 1-1 learning, and other key ways to get students interested in learning. In this case though, we have been forced to really think about what we want students to get out of their education. We have been forced to think about what is necessary, what is fluff and what role we want our educators, leaders, parents and students to play in helping to promote education that is equal, fair and relevant. I don’t have all or even most of the answers! What I am hoping to provide is at least some guidance, hope and perspective to how this will influence education for the foreseeable future.
- I like to believe that every school/district looks at the spectrum of teaching and learning through the eyes of their students, teachers, parents, community and leadership. We all want students to share the same exceptional experience no matter their age, gender, race, or disability. Whether that’s happened before is up for debate. But we know that Covid-19 has forced districts to rethink and adapt their thinking. Again, I don’t have every solution, nobody does. We need to clearly articulate what students to learn while they aren’t in the physical structure of a school? Is it standards, objectives, communication skills, problem solving, or even the ability to work collaboratively in the hopes of fixing a larger problem?
- Let’s start with the end in mind. In our classrooms, we try to get students talking, involved, creative and passionate about working with others. It makes for a much more dynamic and happy learning environment. But truth be told, not every student likes or wants that type of class, so we hopefully don’t force them to change. We might encourage participation. We may experiment with partners, groups or pods. In the end though, every student is different. Now with our current situation, it’s imperative that social connections with students, parents and teachers grow exponentially. There are going to be questions that wouldn’t have been asked before. Our ability to problem solve will be challenging at first. It will hurt! But with time, I believe we’ll be grateful that it’s forced all of us to promote relationships.
- I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve always tried to build a connection before building content. Maybe it goes back to my high school years, where very few teachers were about developing meaningful relationships. This doesn’t mean that content, standards and objectives don’t matter. They do! Let’s think about today’s situation. We are all going to be sharing. This means teachers, parents, districts and most importantly STUDENTS! They won’t be taking a test in class. It will be online. Projects will be much more open source. Again, this isn’t a bad things, just a different thing. We must embrace the willingness to structure our content and lessons so students can build a better mouse trap together, instead of getting stuck in it alone. Take a brief look at what future employers seek from their workers. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/top-skills-employers-want-2062481 Sure it has technical and analytical skills that are the content piece. But what strikes me as most important are these: soft skills, leadership, communication skills and positive attitude. Today’s situation can and should allow us to develop those skills. As a matter of fact, it will force it on us. That’s a good thing!
What makes education the noblest profession is how it’s constantly evolving. Whatever your role is with children: teacher, parent, nurse, secretary, custodian, principal, etc… you’ve learned to change with the times. Remember that even 20 years ago there were no cell phones and the internet was just getting started. Think what would have happened 20 years ago if the same situation would have occurred. Let’s use all that we have, all the we’ve learned to improve education, not complain about it. I welcome your comments, thoughts and feedback. Have a wonderful day and be safe!