Maybe it is too early to have these thoughts, but I am starting to wonder what life will look like after the pandemic is over. Surely, it will not return to be exactly the same as before.
For example, what will the educational process look like? Will more online learning be incorporated into traditional classes? Will teachers be required to do even more – and prepare for teaching online should these odd circumstances arise again? Hopefully, teaching and/or receiving education online will be a choice, and not a mandate such as it has been with the COVID-19 pandemic. It takes a different skill set to teach online than in a classroom. And, just like any sectors of a single profession, there are educators who will be great at it and those who are not. But, with only a few exceptions, it should be a choice to teach or attend classes online.
I remember when we were making the choice to enroll our oldest son in a traditional, single first-grade class or a multi-age class for first through third-grade students. This was almost twenty years ago. I attended an informational meeting made up of several teachers (from multi-age), the instructional services director, and the principal of the elementary school in which my son attended kindergarten. It was an open meeting for parents to obtain information about the classroom settings that were available at our school for the coming year. One thing that the principal said has stuck with me all these years and that was that none of the educators were “forced” to teach multi-age. They did so because they wanted to. And, the classes would not be offered in the alternative formats such as looping (not available at our building) and multi-age, unless teachers were willing and available to teach them.
Did you hear this? No one was “made to do it.”
And, once we were involved in a multi-age setting, I understood why the philosophy existed. First, it set up both the students and the teachers for success. They both were in settings they chose to be in. And, secondly, from an educators perspective, it was “different” having two or three grade levels to work with, rather than one. I hesitate to say it was “harder” for the teachers, but at times, I think it was. The reason I hesitate is that nothing is all that hard when you want to do it. The teachers our son had definitely wanted to be in a multi-age setting. Two of the three were also veteran teachers with many, many years of experience.
It turned out to be a fabulous fit for our son, too! And, it ended when two years into it one of the veteran teachers retired. No one else wanted to replace her in the multi-age classroom. No one was “made” to do it.
Now, I know that the situation with the pandemic is different. A choice could not be given. School administrators and teachers had to act fast to provide our students with educational opportunities to finish out the school year. They switched gears quickly, and with nary a complaint from what I heard. I cannot imagine having to change methods like this so quickly! And, I applaud the educators I know who have worked hard to keep classes going, keep in touch with their students, and stay the course – even if it is a virtual one, right now.
But, after the pandemic? I hope there is a choice for both students and teachers. I think some, from both groups, will want online education to continue. As I have stated in some earlier postings, I do believe that all high school students should be exposed to online learning at least once in grades 9-12. But, does each district have to provide the online courses? I say no. Districts should consider partnering with established online education providers who know the ropes. There are several that I can think of immediately. K-12 and eAchieve Academy have been successfully providing online classes for years. They allow students to enroll part-time for a course or two. This would alleviate training individual district staff to be online AND traditional educators. Let the experts in each sector – online and traditional – keep teaching the way they know best!
This is just one of the things I’ve been wondering about recently, as talk of “getting back to normal” commences in the media and in our communities. Some other areas that might look different are that of socializing and environmental stewardship.
Internet Use & Virtual Reality Rise
This pandemic has pushed us further into the abyss of the internet. Those of us who try to limit our own or our children’s time online have hit a proverbial wall. Schooling is online. Socializing is online. Work is online (for some). The result is more hours being spent in front of a screen – living in virtual reality. It scares me.
As an environmental educator, I also worry about environmental literacy and stewardship. During the pandemic, some have turned to live more sustainably. Others, in trying to support local businesses are getting take out and using more disposable items at mealtime. Certainly, the amount of hoarding going on just points to an increased amount of waste also being produced. This also scares me.
We’ve stopped talking about climate change, plastic waste, and loss of pollinator habitat – all of which are continuing as we are stuck at home. Think of all we are doing to protect ourselves – how much of it will turn in to waste during the pandemic and afterward. It scares me.
Unfortunately, I am the type of person that thinks of these “big picture” issues. I have matured in knowing I cannot control many, if any, of them. But, it does not stop me from wondering or my concerns from growing. The future will look different. I am certain of that.