There is hope however.
In places like Canada, Denmark and Southeast Asia schools are opening back up and students heading back to the classroom. To call it a traditional space wouldn’t be accurate. Many new health and safety measures like physical distancing and mask are the order of the day.
What school will look like in locations around the US still remains to be seen. Some states are releasing guidance as to how to open safely while others aren’t taking any chances and will continue remote learning in the new school year.
There is much to reflect upon here at the end of School Year 2019-2020. And there is much to think about going into the Fall 2020. Here are 3 Reflections for the end of the school year and how we can take those as considerations into the next regardless if learning is face-to-face or remote or both.
3 Reflections and Considerations For Teaching and Learning In 2020
- Reflection: How was my classroom community prepared when the move to remote learning was done? How did I maintain a sense of community when we were forced to be separated? What did I learn?
- Consideration: How will what I learned in remote learning help me to build better communities and relationships both with my students and among my students? How does the current climate of social action shining a spotlight on social justice play a role in my community next year?
As we look at all that we accomplished this year and begin to think about next it’s important to consider the communities we build in our classrooms. Many educators I’ve spoken to said the number one thing that helped them transition to remote learning wasn’t devices or apps. It was the fact they had strong relationships and communities already in place. There was already a sense that everyone could do this together.
Moving forward, it will be even more important to build these communities and connections not only among the students we teach but with the wider community as well. Students and teachers alike are hurting right now. And we can’t shy away from the injustices that plague our communities and school systems. Kids need spaces to talk about these events, their experiences and know that the adults in their lives will fight for them.
What kind of community will you create?
Social-Emotional and Mental Health
- Reflection: The pandemic has caused much of the education system to finally consider the emotional, social and mental health of students. What did you do? What steps did you take to ensure students and parents were ok in forced isolation? How did you take care of your own self during this time?
- Consideration: Building off the need to create communities, how can you make classrooms safe places for students? What awareness can you raise with staff members and administration to focus on the mental well-being of all students and parents? How will you make time to ensure each student is well both emotionally and mentally but also make time for yourself?
Let’s be honest. Quarantine isn’t fun. We might think that being at home for an extended period of time is like a vacation but after a few days it’s definitely not. And this upheaval in our lives and the lives of our students and parents put a great deal of stress on all of us. I saw it in my own daughters everyday. All they wanted to do was see their friends. They wanted a sense of normalcy. I am one of the lucky ones. Both my daughters' teachers put learning aside at the beginning and for 2 weeks at the start just called every day to talk to them. 30 mins to an hour in some cases. Just to see how they were doing. I got calls too from the school. Asking how I was holding up. It made the isolation feel less isolating.
This focus on social-emotional and mental well-being is a cornerstone of educating the Whole Child. An exclusive focus on content and standards only builds compliant, non-thinking adults. Social-Emotional and Mental wellbeing can go hand-in-hand with content. It’s not just important for our students but for our parents and ourselves as well. Regardless of what school looks like a near constant consideration of the social-emotional development and mental wellbeing of students, staff, parents, community members and ourselves is a must!
How will you keep your students, parents and yourself emotionally and mentally well?
Teaching and Learning
- Reflection: While we may have been somewhat unprepared for the sudden move to remote learning we did our best to ensure students were learning. How did you know students were learning? What strategies did you use that worked well? What didn’t work so well? Are students prepared for next school year?
- Consideration: Learning in Fall 2020 will be different from the beginning of every other school year because of how the last one completed. How will you determine where students are? What methods will you use to meet the needs of each student regardless of where school is or what it looks like?
2020 might go down as the year that teaching and learning changed at a fundamental level. Or it might not. That choice is up to us. Teaching remotely is vastly different from teaching in a traditional classroom. While they had good intentions many teachers and leaders made poor choices when it came to moving to remote learning in attempting to replicate the classroom in a virtual space. Requiring face-to-face video meetings every day or requiring teachers to be online for the same amount of time they would be at school each day. Again, good intentions, poor execution.
We are at a crossroads in education when it comes to teaching and learning. We can keep going down the traditional path, one that has served inequality and injustices since schooling began. Or we can chart a new course. One that puts students in the driver seat and allows them time and space to empathize, create authentically, and uses these pervasive technologies for good rather than regurgitation. One where differentiation is the norm. One where students have the flexibility to explore their world, examine the topics that are meaningful to them. One where teaching and learning finally looks like it should in the 21st century.
How will teaching and learning be different for you next year?