Changing School In The Face of A Global Pandemic
In the face of a global pandemic changes have been brought about in all areas of our way of life. One of these changes includes schools.
The idea of school, as a separate building, sometimes based right in our own community with classrooms and desks organized into neat rows and the teacher standing in the front of the classroom has been around for a long time. Nothing much has changed in this model.
However, within a few weeks of learning that the coronavirus, Covid-19, was about to hit our nation in ways that we are only used to seeing in movies and television we have moved the idea of school online. This is a shift that will present changes unimagined and will spotlight issues that were present before the pandemic.
The Digital Gap
In urban and rural areas our students can be left without digital tools. Like books missing from a home that lives paycheck to paycheck so too might the home be missing any computer for the student to use to complete school work. Internet services outside of suburban areas where high speed, large bandwidth internet is common may not be available to our rural students. Missing tools may not be a problem just for students either. Teachers in the classroom today may be missing training to access technology or lack the resources to implement technology in the everyday physical classroom. These same teachers are now being asked to take their classrooms online with little or no practice with technology.
Missing a Safety Net
Most students look forward to school just to see friends or be around an adult that cares about them. For many students school might also mean food is available. Running water and clean working restrooms are present. It might also be the most stable place in a student’s lives. Students who once had access to social workers, psychologists, and guidance counselors are facing a darkness they may not know how to navigate as school go dark.
For teachers facing a classroom at the start of the school year can present challenges. One challenge is to address the question of if the student is ready to meet grade level expectations. This question usually comes after a few months of no school. Next fall this same question will present itself but may now come with many months of no school as states are faced with canceling the remainder of the school year. Although some new research shows that the summer slide may not really exist, there has to be some consideration that students may be missing important skills or knowledge if actual time at school has been canceled.
Carefully Laid Plans Often Go Awry
Even detailed plans may be missing important gaps in a school or a school district learning plan. From the classroom teacher on up to the school superintendent plans to address student learning during the time that schools cannot be open have been made in a matter of days. Public policy makers, project managers, and any kind of large organization will often face a number of unknown unknowns when rolling out or launching their idea. This is now the challenge that schools face in every community in our nation.