Schools across the globe have been forced to close their doors in a sweeping response to the COVID 19 pandemic. Many educators found this out with little to no time to prepare and it has been challenging for everyone. The school buildings are closed but the learning is continuing and it is revealing a lot about the state of education.
Here are 5 Observations on Education During a Pandemic:
- Socioeconomics continues to be one of the major factors impacting education. This debate (and unfortunately it has been a debate) continues as many people are seeing that those families living in poverty do not have an equitable access employment, technology or food. This hasn’t changed with the closing of school, it has just become more apparent. The big question is…. what are we doing about it?
- Educators who lead with a Growth Mindset in regards to technology and remote student learning are having the most successes. If you are being asked to change your mode of instruction (sometimes with less than 24 hours of notice) there is not a lot of time to remain fixed about what teaching and learning is going to look like. By and large educators have taken risks, tried new things and gone out of their comfort zones to ensure that students continue learning during this unprecedented time.
- The need to “play school” in the 19th century sense is still alive and well. Those who are trying to play this type of school are struggling. Many educators report that they are “business as usual” or that they are “keeping the curriculum moving forward.” This can be a troublesome approach since the variables of educating students remotely have been drastically increased. How can we approach business as usual when parents are responsible for balancing their jobs (if they still have them), ensuring that their children are following the remote learning plans, all while everyone wonders what the long term impact of this pandemic will be?
- Collaboration is key. Educators collaborate all the time during the traditional school year. Teachers use formal and informal ways to collaborate while in a traditional school setting. During remote learning, educators have had to investigate new forms of communication, attend virtual meetings, use back channels and recognize the importance of social media. Teachers are doing this while also taking care of their own children.
- Many were prepared for this. There are countless educators who have sacrificed their mornings or evenings to attend Twitter Chats to grow and connect with others outside their school walls. They listened to Podcasts, joined Voxer groups all in the hopes to learn something new or connect with like minded educators. Numerous educators gave up their Saturdays to attend EdCamps where the un-conference model allowed for an innovative, learner-centered professional development that they were not getting inside the school walls. Thought leaders such as Will Richardson, Eric Sheninger, Diane Ravitch, Baruti Kafele, and Rafranz Davis were telling us over the last few years that we needed to look at the education paradigm differently, uniquely because we are in a new age.
So where do we go from here?
Eventually we will head back to the school buildings but the hope is that this experience will force educators to reflect on the current mode of education and to determine what changes they will need to make moving forward to connect with students on a deeper level. Maybe the teachers will be able to take charge of the curriculum again and force state and local legislatures to put the kid’s needs first. Maybe, just maybe the public will see that all of the teacher bashing that has been en vogue over the last 20 years needs to stop and we need to work together for our kids!
Spike Cook, Ed.D., Principal, Lakeside Middle School, Millville, NJ. In addition to being a Principal, Dr. Cook published two books through Corwin Press (Connected Leadership:It’s Just a Click Away; Breaking Out of Isolation: Becoming a Connected School Leader). He is the co-host of the PrincipaPLN podcast and his blog, Insights Into Learning, was recognized as a finalist for Best Administrator Blog by the EduBlog Awards. Spike earned his Doctorate from Rowan University and is featured in their Alumni Spotlight. Connect with @drspikecook via Twitter.