Big things often happen as a result of a disruption. The pandemic is a disruption. It’s the kind of disruption that will force some people and organizations to press the pause button until it is over. It is also triggering others to retool, realign, shift focus, or all of the above.
Last week, in a matter of hours, families and educators were forced to grapple with the reality that their daily routine had to completely change. And with school closures being indefinite, parents and teachers are scrambling for resources to ensure students continue to learn.
Please know that I do not take lightly the situation we are in. Far from it. However, education has needed a disruption for some time. And if there’s any silver lining in all of this, I believe it could involve shifting paradigms and taking advantage of some immediate opportunities. Let me explain.
Regarding opportunities, we educators have been looking for time for years—
- time to engage in intense professional development;
- time to develop curriculum that is universally-designed and standards-based;
- time to cultivate behaviors and mindsets that place a priority on empowering students and nurturing relationships; and
- time to identify and become proficient using new technology tools and embed them into the learning process.
There’s a cliche about building an airplane while it’s in the air that every educator has heard and connected to. That’s because despite what we’ve learned as educators, there’s not enough time in- or outside of school to keep up with it all—at least not in a systematic way.
Well, we have time now…weeks…maybe a dozen. School districts and educational service agencies have the resources to immediately dive into the work of strengthening our practice, and we can do it even while social distancing and self-isolating, using the simplest technologies available.
Despite what we know about brain development, learning styles and how people learn—none of which have anything to do with location or time—education policy is still based on seat time and age.
Just a few days into the school closure phase of the pandemic, educators across the country are already connecting with their students and delivering content. They’re stepping out of their comfort zone. In some cases, it’s clunky and imperfect, which is the beauty in it. I can’t think of a better way to demonstrate perseverance and flexibility, not to mention how much they care about their students.
I just heard about a kindergarten teacher who was individually FaceTiming with each of her students. Another teacher is posting a video on Facebook of herself reading aloud for her students. These are just two examples of the multiple ways these two educators are engaging students. There’s nothing common at the core of these educators.
And like them, there are thousands of others doing it other ways and proving desks and schedules are irrelevant. I wonder how long seat time, age-based advancement and grades will last once this is all over.
I’m just getting started. We’re just getting started. There are several other shifts occurring that I could talk about—like schools using their transportation department to deliver lunches to students while they are at home. Or using buses to deliver books and other materials to students’ homes. Do you think families will remember these kinds of things the next time the school holds a referendum? You bet they will.
I don’t yet fully know what we can accomplish in the face of this disruption. What I do know Is that when we get to the end of this, I hope we can look back and feel like we made use of the time.