School will be starting soon, in some form. I am glad that I do not need to face the decisions that are currently being made by parents, students, and educators. As a retired educator, however, I find myself reading and listening to many sources about just what a teacher or parent can do to make this year as successful as possible. I want to share just a few I found particularly informative.
This week the school districts in my area unfolded their plans for the fall of the 2020-2021 school year. Many of the local superintendents communicated with each other in trying to determine what is right for their own districts and for the metropolitan area.
Each school district has put its own twist on how to begin the 2020-2021 school year. Some seem to include options that include a choice between remote learning or some form of hybrid learning. Some schools, mostly private, state that they will have traditional in person classes.
I have glanced a little at articles from around the country and see that many districts make it clear that the planned remote learning for the fall will be nothing like the quickly constructed emergency plan of March. I think many parents should be glad to hear that.
It seems like one common thread is that if hybrid learning is currently planned for the first day of school here on August 24, 2020, there exists a disclaimer. Plans depend on what the virus is doing. Currently the COVID numbers seem to be on the rise here. This could mean a last minute switch to online learning for all.
As a retired educator, this uncertainty about school openings causes my heart to ache for the teachers and students preparing to show up in a classroom.
Teachers will be arranging desks, designing bulletin boards, maybe creatively assembling plexiglass partitions, acquiring masks, marking the floors for social distancing. They will be working at deciding what content needs to be covered in person the two days they have kids and what activities can be done by students on the days they are not with the teacher. Elementary teachers especially are struggling with how to build community when they won’t be able to touch base every day with their students.
Parents will be arranging schedules. They will be trying to find other families on the same school rotation schedule who might be able to help watch their kids on the days they are home. They are wondering how they will juggle life if their high school students go different days than their middle school students.
Children will be looking forward to seeing friends.
Then, a week before school starts, the day before school starts, the week after school begins…Everything. Changes!
New plans have to be made.
I can’t imagine.
The one thing that I believe will be most important in providing a successful school year for a child is the attitude of his or her parent.
A short story: When I taught second graders, I had a little girl who hated math and really didn’t put much effort into it. She moaned, she complained, and never expected to get correct answers. I tried to figure out what was going on. She told me, “It’s okay if I’m not good at math. My mother told me she was never good at math either.” The mom and I had a serious conversation.
Her mother’s attitude toward math had impacted this little girl’s learning from kindergarten to second grade.
Parent conversations about their own worries, fears or anger toward the educational choices provided by the child’s school will impact the learning of their child, not just this year, but for years to come. No matter what choice you make if you are a parent, please avoid letting your child overhear the negative comments you may be making to other adults.
While school this fall will be unlike anything educators and parents have experienced before, some of the information I have found about remote learning gives me hope that, while extremely challenging, this experience might lead to the development of improved educational practice in our school system. I was pretty fascinated. Once a teacher, always a teacher I guess.
As promised, here are just a few links. (Podcasts can be listened to online.)
What is Remote Learning is an article that explains the structures of a successful virtual program. I think parents and teachers might find this helpful.
The podcast 9 Ways Online Teaching Should be Different from Face-to-Face from the Cult of Pedagogy is geared toward teachers. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript. Other links are available through the site.
I found the podcast The Science of School Reopenings from the New York Times podcast, The Daily, to be informative. It discussed the results of safe school openings in other countries and how that knowledge might impact decisions in the United States.
Finally, an article about a school district in the San Francisco area that plans to begin the year with online learning and gradually reopen for students most in need of face-to-face services through “support hubs.”
I hope you find something helpful in these links.