Thoughts on the new Path of Education
I have had the privilege of working in education for over thirty years. I have been a special education teacher, administrator, and consultant. Education is a good field and a good career for anyone who wants to see the future succeed.
Education Will Go On
Before the recent events, I worked with teachers in their classrooms to help students read. This has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever enjoyed. After Friday, March 13 the schools were closed. I began working with the same teachers through video conferences as they did with their students until the end of this strange school year. Everyone made the best of a difficult situation and did their best to provide normal educational experiences to the students who could access the internet and a computer or a device. Efforts were made to contact all students and provide them with meaningful lessons.
Education will continue in some form during the upcoming school year regardless of the barriers that are put before it. Teachers will teach and students will learn and we will move forward. How this will look will be specific to the state, district, school, teacher, and family. Educators are flexible and can find the right accommodations to help everyone succeed.
There are a lot of good people working on the answers to those questions for the students, parents, teachers, and support staff who are waiting to find out what will happen this fall.
Anger, Depression, Acceptance, Rebirth
In spite of the last two paragraphs of positive words, I have had my doubts about what is happening with education. I am a professional educator and I have found myself both extremely disappointed with the system but I have also been extremely impressed with the actions of individuals. I know that education is not dying, or going away. Even so, I have gone through some of the stages of death, repeatedly over the last four months. Please note that the stages of Denial and Bargaining have been left out. There is no denying what is happening and there is no one to bargain with. I added rebirth, (apologies to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross) which will be addressed at the end, (more apologies for the spoiler).
Maybe in place of denial and bargaining, I should add the stage of strange ideas which I have been having regarding this crisis. Strange idea #1. A year ago I would have been happy to hear that national standardized testing was not going to occur. Now I worry without some type of a standardized measure that we will have no evidence of how bad the draconian shutdown is affecting our students. When I heard that systems were not going to count attendance I proclaimed that we had skipped returning education to the 19th century and instead went straight to the 18th century. I know that at this point in time everyone is trying to do their best with what they have, standardized testing is not, nor has it ever been the answer, and taking roll is just not a priority at this point. I also know that education will continue, we will have a strange year but at least there will be options. I think of post-war Europe, every system that we take for granted, education, government, basic freedom was forcibly removed by war. These countries picked up the pieces and moved forward, some did not fully experience freedom until more recent history, but they moved forward. We will too.
Teachers have been making history since the start of this crisis. Schools were closed so quickly that many did not have an opportunity to gather books and lessons. However, online classes quickly were put into place. Busses began delivering lunches and support staff followed delivering lessons to students that may not have access to the internet or devices as well as a warm lunch. The work that these people did with little or no time to plan the mobilization will affect education for the next decade and beyond. This school year may not resemble the well-oiled machine that our factory based school system has developed over the past 150 years, but maybe that is good. The industrial revolution put people into large buildings and their movements were governed by bells and whistles. That worked so well we put their children in the same type of system and everyone was if not happy at least organized. Now things have changed, teachers can teach students from anywhere in the world. Rather than talking about getting the internet into all homes, we can begin doing something about it. Information is out there for anyone to access and the people in the buildings are no longer the gatekeepers of information. It is an open book society. When things change slowly, no one talks about it. It takes a disruption for fast change and everyone notices.
Into the Woods
I think we have reached that point where now is the time to go in a different direction on a new and unexplored path. This is not going to be a smooth journey to a familiar destination on a highway that has been in place over 150 years. We have an opportunity to begin a new and possibly difficult journey on a path that will be blazed by history-making teachers, students, parents to vistas that we have not seen yet.