I have been seeing a lot of educators (and supporters of educators) calling for teachers to exercise freedom, try new things, and exercise autonomy during these unprecedented times in the teaching and learning process of our children.
What did we miss?
I have been really reflecting on this question; both as I lead a school, staff, students, and families through this process – and as a husband to an educator and father to two elementary students all struggling a little bit with our shift to the new (temporary) norm.
So, what did we miss?
A foundational cornerstone of the answer to this question is simple. We [public education driven by standardized practices at the local, state, and federal levels] abandoned caring about the professional skill sets of the teacher long ago.
We stopped leaving them [teachers] to their own devices to create curriculum that was engaging, relevant, and tied to standards. This shift to online learning, distance learning, remote learning, etc… has been so tough because now, as a society, we are paying the price of transitioning a one-sized-fits-all practice into a system that demands differentiation. Not only does it demand differentiation for the student – but it demands it for the teacher as well.
Our new system – which I would have argued should have been the one being implemented in brick and mortar schools across the nation – demands the ability for educators to be able to create content – on their own or in small teams.
What we missed is teacher autonomy in the process that we call schooling. What we missed is allowing large testing/textbook companies to drive our curriculum design. What we missed is allowing massively complex webs of standards to drive our teaching and learning. What we missed is dependency on too many programs and not people. What we missed is piling requirement after requirement, statute after statute on our schools, teachers, and students. What we missed is providing solid grassroots professional development for our teachers – focused on strategies aligned to skill sets of future 21st C. citizens. What we missed was hiding behind terminology like “college and career” – with focus on actual outcomes. What we missed was ensuring that all students have access to devices and broadband internet. What we missed is designing school structures that are grounded in problem-solving – so that a shift can be made on a dime because our teaching and learning systems are so flexible.
What we missed is underestimating the heroic jobs of classroom educators.
But I digress.
I am hopeful that when this is over that we will shift the discussion to what we missed.