The journey has begun and we have set off on a new course, drawing the map as we go. We don't know where it will take us. We must make bold decisions without rushing recklessly into the unknown. Every day is a PD day. #myPDtoday
As this new week stretches before us, there is a great deal of uncertainty about what is to come. This morning I was having a conversation with a friend online about what is happening in education and we were discussing how our current description of learning doesn’t really capture what is happening right now. We have an idea that this learning is different but we don’t know how to describe it because we really don’t have a clear picture of what it even looks like at this moment. Given that, there are some things that are becoming clearer as the days progress.
Parents are Not Teachers
One of the first things that we really need to be clear about, I think, is that parents are not going to become teachers. Parents are dealing with a myriad of things right now that is making life stressful for them and asking them to be ’teachers’, to set up some sort of school schedule, to somehow simulate school in any way is unfair. As each day passes which requires parents to do more and more at home, adding teaching to their workload is not sustainable. This isn’t summer vacation or any other type of vacation when parents who are working have access to childcare and other resources. We are isolating which means the normal resources many parents would access to help them are not available.
Home Is Not School
Home is not school and this isn’t homeschooling as one would traditionally define it. I know there are many posts of people posting their children’s ‘home school’ schedules online. However, I don’t think this is easy for parents to maintain. In fact, schedules, for the most part, are hard to maintain right now. Our 10-year-old is having a hard time sleeping. He’s anxious and worried. His sister is a doctor. He’s worried about her. He misses his friends. Our teenagers are missing their friends. They are also anxious. Our children aren’t sleeping like they normally do which means that we are letting them sleep later. This isn’t normal because this isn’t a normal time. My wife and I are both teachers and we can see that our children are experiencing stress and anxiety. We’re trying to figure out how to connect them with friends and family. But we’re also trying to do work on our own, manage our own anxieties and worries. This is our new normal for now. In talking with other parents, they are experiencing similar things. Yes, we are worried about our children’s learning but, truthfully, we are also worried about a lot of other things. The idea that suddenly things are going to shift to a ‘school day’ isn’t realistic. What is happening is unprecedented, we don’t have a plan or an idea of what to expect or how to manage the variety of things that need to be done within schools or school systems. I know people are giving webinars and talks about how to manage schools and school communities during a pandemic but, really, we don’t have a map for this. All plans will have to be tentative at best. This will change and shift as we learn and grow. A focus on people and their health and well being should be the main focus at this time.
Learning using Online and Digital Tools is Different
Working online and using digital tools for learning is different than the daily face to face most educators use to. As someone that has used these tools for over a decade, I still have to work at creating learning environments that invite students into learning. Relationships are still vitally important in these environments. It requires using different tools to make the connections, to manage the learning in a different manner and to develop opportunities for students to demonstrate learning in slightly different ways. It takes time. People are suggesting that we don’t have time, that we need to make this happen rapidly. Unfortunately, rushing into this may create even greater issues. And, really, we do have time. We have time to move slowly. To make changes at an incremental rate which will provide time for feedback and to make adjustments.
This isn’t about Saving the Rest of the School Year
I think this is one of the things that need to be openly discussed. ’Saving’ this school year comes with it the idea that there is a plan to do so. From what I have seen, there isn’t a plan. There are ideas of how to support students, teachers, and parents. This was made clear to me the other night as I listened to a teacher explain how she was helping her daughter connect the dance routine she was planning to the curricular outcomes from the province, going through different curricula to find outcomes it would match and figuring out what her daughter would need to do to meet these outcomes. Can this be expected for each child at home? How would teachers support such a shift? What resources would they need? Remember, parents are not teachers.
We Must Be Bold - Not Reckless
This is a time for bold action in order to mitigate the effect of the COVID19 virus. It is time for bold action to support families and those who are working to make sure that the rest of us can access food and other essential services. It is time for bold action to put in place support for people as more and more people are required to stay home from work and need assistance with the necessities of life. We need bold action to ensure health care workers and other personnel who are on the front lines of taking care of the sick have the supplies and tools they need to do their work with minimal exposure. It is time for bold action to ensure those who are most vulnerable are kept safe and are a priority. Although I believe education is important and a priority for children, I also believe that at this time, less is more. I think bold action includes ensure children are safe as they can be with access to food and shelter. Yes, we need to put things into place to help students but I don’t think we need to rush to move everything online.
Making decisions during times such as these requires those who are doing so to at times be bold, to step out into the unknown and try things yet untried. But, there is a difference between being bold and being reckless. When one rushes headlong into something without pausing to consider the possibilities and the effect it may have on all people, the consequences can be dramatic. Sometimes, to be bold, one has to stop from rushing forward and pause before continuing on. Being bold requires both the strength to step into the unknown and the strength to pause before taking that step. Leaping is important. But so is ensuring one has considered how one will land once the leap has been taken.
Let us be bold…