Well, here we are shuffling through our 6th week back at school since Spring Break ended and a few things have become abundantly clear about our education system. First and foremost we were not prepared for a pandemic. Yah I know, I have a penchant for stating the obvious, but within the BIG obvious lesson, there are all sorts of little lessons we can gleen from this Pandemic. Some we already knew and some not so much, so sit back and enjoy a light analysis of what Covid19 has taught us about parents, kids, teachers and the education system.
Teachers Need To Digitize Their Instruction
If I had of walked into the first staff meeting this past September and announced that “You will all be expected to have your instructional materials digitized and your online classrooms set up and ready to go, because there may be an outside chance that you will have to teach from home this year…” I would have been laughed out of that meeting, perhaps even had the odd cookie or coffee thrown at me as I ran dodging and weaving from a hostile room.
I have been a Digital Access advocate in education my entire career and although educators have been slowly wading into the digital domain these past 24 years, Digital Access has never been a priority for most. Online classrooms, digital resources and all that is involved with the digitization of teaching and learning is seen by many as an attack on the teaching profession. If you digitized your teaching, you were betraying your profession. Then along comes Covid19…
We (educators) no longer have the luxury of sheltering in place in an effort to protect our profession from the digitization. Like it or not, Covid19 has forced us all to embrace the tools that make Digital Access to learning possible.
We Like Our Children In School
As a teacher, you sometimes feel that the world looks at school as a nothing more than a necessary evil. A place you send your kids, not because you want to, but because someone said somewhere along the line that kids have to be in school.
Since the pandemic started, I have seen a noticeable transition from people begrudgingly accepting the time we spend in school, to unconditional acclamation of our public school system. Suddenly the discourse has gone from grumbling about our schools and teachers to “OH MY GOD HOW DO THEY DO THIS DAY AFTER DAY… I can’t wait until schools are back in session?!”
COVID19 has focused some much needed light on just how dependant our society is on our public school systems. We have a fresh understanding that without our schools, modern society does not run very well. We depend on our schools to not only educate, but to separate parents from their progeny so they can work, socialize and be something other than Mom and or Dad.
Kids Need to Have Independent Learning Skills
I have been trumpeting the need for kids to be Free Agent Learners for years now. Not only has it never been easier to learn something on your own, it is a required skill in today’s modern workplace. Learning waits for no one and those who can take advantage of this opportunity, will rule the world.
What Covid19 has illustrated to me, is that far too many kids do not have the Independent Learning Skills needed to take charge of their own learning. Our students still depend on someone in the same room telling them what to think, what to do and how to do it.
Where do we go from here? Well… We have the technology and now that Covid19 has illustrated the need for arms length learning, I think students will quickly acquire the Independent Learning Skills necessary to be Free Agent Learners. This is NOT to say “get rid of teachers” it is simply a pragmatic expectation in a world where it is possible for kids to be independent learners, but also a world where the ability to learn without the guiding hand of a teacher in the room is a necessity.
Some Kids Don’t Need Me
As a teacher, I like to think I am important and that my students need me around. The reality is that in some cases, I am just in their way. I have always know this, but this Pandemic has certainly shown me that I need to just step back and provide those students who have the aforementioned Independent Learning Skills, the opportunity to direct their own learning.
Granted my teaching area (Information Technology), lends itself to more independent learning situations and I already do this to some extent, but I am thinking I may need to implement the IDS (Independent Directed Study) model a little more liberally for some of my students. When you think of it, who am I to hold a kid back? Giddy up and see what they can create without me!
Schools Do So Much More Than Just Educate
I don’t think this is a surprise to anyone, but schools are a conglomeration of so much more than just book learning. Schools have been quietly moving towards being one stop shops for youth and their families for years. Unfortunately there has never really been any official recognition of the non learning services provided on a day to day basis. Kids and families depend on schools to socialize, to counsel, to discipline, to protect, to feed, to provide drug and alcohol intervention… The reality is that many of our kids are finding this pandemic to be more than just a gap in their learning. There is so much that goes on in our schools that is not even funded never mind recognized, yet our kids and their families depend on these services and connections that their schools provide.
Forever the pessimist, I will guess not much will change once we are back to “normal” in public schools. We may have to juggle school schedules, teachers will be better prepared to deliver curriculum online, but our new normal will ultimately look a lot like the old normal. The curriculum will not have changed. Our need to house children someplace safe while parents are doing the things that parents do will still exist. Teachers will look at their roll as teacher the same, and I am not sure the world is ready to let kids be Free Agent Learners.
Covid19 will undoubtedly remain in our memories for sometime and it will change the way we do many things. Unfortunately when it comes to our schools… I don’t think we will notice much of a change in 18 months time.