It is all too easy to go down the rabbit hole that is talking about the dumpster fire that is year 2020. Am I right?
Seriously it's hard to connect with your friends or be in a social gathering (wait, are we allowed to do that yet?) without the conversation being almost solely about what is pandemic living.
And then it gets even worse if the topic of going back to school comes up. I don't know about you, but I almost try to avoid that topic when I am amongst non-teacher friends. It's hard to hear some comments made about teachers.
Then you open social media or turn on the news and things are even worse when the topic of teachers comes up. Let's face it, no matter what your stance may be on going back to school or not, some of the things that "teachers" are doing and saying right now, meaning groups of teachers or teacher unions, are really hurting the perception of all teachers.
I said it.
Some of the stipulations that are being made by teachers about going back are just unreasonable, and it's hurting all other teachers in the process.
I've got to believe, too, that the vast majority of teachers in this country are not the ones making ridiculous stipulations for their return to school. The vast majority of teachers are going to take the precautions they need to take to stay safe and keep their students safe, and they are working their tail-ends off to make this school year one that allows them to remain effective and connected with their students when that task has never been so difficult.
This post is for you, teacher friend.
And it's a post where we are NOT going to focus on the dumpster fire that is 2020. We are going to focus on the ways in which education WILL come out of this better. And do you know why it's going to come out of this as a better field???? Because of teachers (and the administrators backing them up).
Simple as that.
And we have the determination to do it.
Consider the most recent threats to education as an institution. With uncertain funding, facilities issues, enrollment numbers, safety on our campuses, and advancing technology, no institution has been as hard pressed, challenged or threatened as education. School districts often reflect and take everything into account to consider how they might set themselves up to better adapt to a fast-changing world. Each year school leaders make adjustments and changes based on data, changing conditions and the student population.
Arguably, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated this exponentially. The coronavirus crisis has provided the catalyst for schools to increase planning, communication and problem solving in a new way that creates resilience and enables them to emerge stronger. Schools have been challenged to operate in an entirely new way - ONLINE. With shelter in place orders, districts scrambled to get computers out to students, arm teachers with new skills to teach online, and set up new online policies/procedures. Many districts had teachers go through intensive training in order to close any potential learning gaps. Talk about hard pressed! No feat could be more difficult.
Don't get me wrong... I'm more for a slow and steady change in most things. But I think we can all agree that quite a few areas, education was needing quite the overhaul. Maybe COVID-19 and distance learning has bee the catalyst to that necessary change.
Crises force us to adapt. Covid-19 is forcing students, parents and teachers to adapt to online learning tools. Being adaptable is important for many reasons. It showcases your ability to be resourceful and displays your leadership skills and determination. It also enhances your analytical skills which is a valuable quality.
Teachers, as hard as it's been, have been at the forefront of that change. And I'm betting you can think of quite a few colleagues who have very much still been teaching in the 20th century world. Face it, teaching 21st century kids in 20th century methods is a total disservice to them! Distance learning has forced the hands of tons of teachers who have been able to get by with 20th century teaching.
No one said it's easy. But it's happening, and it's for the better.
In the Spring, many schools were very much able to sweep kids under the rug who didn't have access at home by just saying they'd only be missing the last few months. And, truthfully, that just is what it is. There's no going back and changing it, and it's not like schools had funding at the ready to respond to a situation like this.
Now that we're approaching possibly an entire school year of distance learning, schools have been able to prepare, and step number one has been getting devices in kids hands.
I'm not saying that the digital divide is closed... not at all. But we're making headway. And I'm so proud that our schools get to be the cause of that.
Think of how important that is!!! Most students in the country will soon have laptops and some type of internet access. Technology affects every field. Data has shown that students enjoy computer science more than other core subjects. This helps us prepare young students for a future where computing jobs are the #1 source of new wages in the United States. Currently, there are 500,000 current openings. These jobs are in every industry and in every state, and they are projected to grow at twice the rate of all other jobs. Online learning helps students be prepared for college and their future career.
The role of the teacher has and will shift, making them more like a coach and mentor. Read a couple of posts I've done on this topic alone recently (here and here). Teaching online gives room for students to pick up more responsibility for their learning. Teachers can point students to a very good online resource or lecture and provide guidance and feedback. They can also help students make connections across topics. The roles of students and parents could also shift. Now that they have more places to look, they may be more likely to try and address learning needs of their own.
Online lessons also enable students to have an element of control over when and how they work. Classroom materials are accessible for students and parents anytime anywhere. Some learning programs are competency-based and very "personalized" for students because the instruction is adapted based on existing skills. Lessons can be easily differentiated to target, engage and accelerate all learners.
It kind of sounds like an oxymoron, but as our teaching is getting more accessible our role is getting more sustainable as teachers. Instead of delivering the same lecture 4+ times a day, I'm delivering it once in video format (which makes it more differentiated and effective for my students, by the way), so that I'm able to now use that time as a guide for my students by connecting with them one-on-one rather than one-on-thirty.
Even though teachers are having to give up a bit more control to our students in their learning process (at least at the middle and high school level), and that's hard to do when you've been (and your students have been) used to the hand holding, spoon feeding, whatever you call it. Now the ownership is on them - and we get to help make that IMMENSE culture shift in education where it's NOT about seat time or how well you complete tasks... now it's about how well you've learned.
Administrators are working hard behind the scenes to persevere through these trials and challenges. With a sense of urgency to decrease lost instructional time, administrators and teachers have worked hard to reinvent school as an online institution. They have created a whole new way to educate students through online video instruction. With tools not widely used before the virus, training was quickly put together so teachers could teach students math, reading and writing online. Teachers have had the challenge of engaging students to learn through video conferences while creating assignments without paper. Virtual teaching is not for the faint of heart. It requires more planning, new skills, and problem solving for technology issues. Using new programs and applications can be very intimidating.
My hat is off to every educator out there. You have risen to the challenge and learned new things. You have become the exemplary student that emerges brighter and stronger than before. I know the countless hours of training to grow your online skills so you can teach lessons with the highest rigor possible. You have even learned new ways to get students collaborating through chat features and small groups. You are more proactive; braver than years past. Your bravery will have a positive impact on lifelong learning in your students.
It is a known fact that a team is as strong as its weakest link. Education is a larger version of the same principle. Our Educational Team is stronger now, more resilient because teachers and administrators have risked to make great changes. Collectively, we have chosen to adapt, overcome, improvise and rise above! We will emerge expert problem solvers. We are ready for our calling!
And let us never forget why we do what we do. Education prepares our young people to become critical thinkers and leaders; our next doctors, mechanics, lawyers, business owners and employers. Our kids deserve our best!
Education will be better after all of this because of teachers.
Cheering you on,