For my school district, today marked the transition to online learning, or execution of what we now call our Instructional Continuity Plan… I know, right!? It also marked my own children’s first day of online learning and my wife’s first day as a fifth grade teacher… online.
Let me just say… the struggle was real.
Sadly, it has taken the Covid-19 pandemic for us to realize how underprepared for learning in the 21st C. we are.
Note that I did not say underprepared for online learning – but 21st C. learning – period. Here are the lessons that we are all learning together.
Cause If You Don’t Know, Now You Know
Families all around the world are learning what goes into the planning to teach kids every day. They are learning how hard educators work; that teaching is an incredibly difficult job; that your student isn’t always perfect; and that things do not always go as planned.
Teachers are superheroes – now you know.
It is Not About Technology
Okay. This one is going to be tough to take. But we need to have a critical conversation.
In the education world we have been resistant to the integration of technology. This has resulted in curriculum that is not preparing students for the 21st C. Too many of our colleagues have continued to give students “packets” of work – which our students complete. Most often times these packets are aligned to standards which are aligned to state assessments. We have not asked the question about how they prepare students for the 21st C. The answer is a simple one… they don’t.
Our states, districts and schools have continued to purchase materials aligned to state assessments. These materials are almost always printed text and/or workbooks. We have not invested in student devices and internet access. We have taken teacher autonomy away – so much so that when asked to create curriculum in a learning management system – we struggle.
We have spent hundreds of millions on textbooks and very little on infrastructure that meets the needs of 21st C. learner and workforce. Our teachers, parents and students are now paying the price.
When the Covid-19 dust settles down – we need to fix this.
A Call for Simplicity
So here we are. Trying to struggle together through a transition to our Instructional Continuity Plan.
We are making an immensely tough transition in a ridiculously short amount of time in a stressful global pandemic. Stressors are at an all time high.
My call to educators is to practice simplicity.
The remainder of the school year needs to be simple. This is not the time to try new content, new lessons, and new practices. You already have a learning curve on transition to new technology and tools most likely.
Our students and their families, and all of us – we are under a tremendous amount of stress. I would ask all leaders to call for their teachers to practice simplicity. Keep it simple, focus more on social-emotional learning than your standards. Focus more on checking in with your students (and their families) than getting their next assignment graded.
When this is all over – we can talk about really preparing students for the 21st C. and we can talk about elevating the work that our teachers do. But until then…