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Leadership · Curriculum · STEM

#HamstraHighlights

#CoronaVirus: On Education

I can’t believe this is happening! And in our lifetime!

I must have said this to my wife a hundred times in the last few weeks.

Even though I watch the news every day to see how COVID-19 spreads throughout the world and is predicted to kill well over 1,000,000 people worldwide, including more than 100,000 right here in the USA, I guess part of me is still in denial.

I simply don’t want to acknowledge the inconvenient truths evidenced even just a few neighborhoods away. I don’t want to embrace the uncomfortable feelings that would force me to change my way of life. And, to be sure, I’m not willing to lean in to the new or the unknown, because that’s not the way we’ve always done it.

An extrovert, I guess I’m okay to physically shelter-in-place. Literally.

Figuratively, however, we’re stretching, connecting, and networking well beyond our physical space. I’ve never seen nor experienced anything quite like this.

In the last three weeks, I’ve observed the schooling narrative shifting sharply from academic requirements to meeting the needs of the whole child, school, and community. Perhaps, our education system has never appeared more vulnerable, adaptive, and human.

I wanted to capture the moment as a time capsule artifact of sorts, upon which to reflect five and fifty years from now. When we look back, we might say that these few months right here forever changed the world, ourselves, and the very manners in which we connect, teach, and learn.

The Full Range on Full Display

Upon hearing the news from my school district and governor on Saturday, March 14th, 2020, that school would be closed for at least two weeks, people reacted.

People reacted in every way imagineable. Some sprinted to curate resources and design remote learning courses and opportunities. Others focused on the family and planned out quality time. Some hugged their televisions one news segment after another while others unplugged in a dark room by themselves. Some laughed, some cried, and some processed in place. Some people didn’t do anything at all. Some highlighted inequities in our communities and sharply urged society to address them immediately.

Inequities Realized?

At the very least, COVID-19 spotlighted, underscored, and slapped us in the face with transparency glaring so brightly that we were nearly blinded.

Or were we?

Maybe, it’s just that in these fight-or-flight moments, some of us could no longer look the other way. When realizing the potential that learning might shift from the physical brick-and-mortar to the online world, it was acknowledged that all learners don’t have access to wifi and devices at home. We got real about kids who may not have an adult at home to access technologies, help with school work, or provide the next meal–a basic need that holds no guarantees for many kids and families. So many of us grew closer to accepting the facts that there are inequities in our communities, and that they directly challenge and impact our kids’ learning at home and school.

But these inequities were nothing new; they were always there. Maybe many of us just didn’t truly see them until now.

Unfolding on social media, I saw my district momentarily pause on curriculum support and device redistribution in order to invest in community efforts, setting up food sites to feed kids, first. I’ve heard Maslow Before Bloom a million times. This was the application in real life and in real time.

Making Learning Meaningful

A couple weeks later, now, and the new normal newness has worn off. With the governor announcing that all North Carolina public schools would be closed through May 15th, 2020, we entered COVID-19 phase two.

Remote learning is no longer a supplemental option–it’s gonna happen–after each child has access. The 15th largest school district in the country is setting guidlines and communicating them to its 161,000 students, 10,000 teachers, and countless families and communities. And it’s already impacting our practice like nothing I’ve ever seen.

As COVID-19 events unfold and our world evolves, look at these themes growing even more apparent in the field of education. On paper, it looks like everything every educator would have fought for over the last 100 years, albeit not as the result of a global pandemic.

  • Fight > Flight
  • Access = Survival
  • Collaboration = Survial
  • Communication = Survial
  • Basic Needs > Learning
  • Learning > Schooling
  • Connecting > Isolation
  • Relationships > Content
  • Differentiation > Tests
  • Safe > Benevolent
  • Health > Work
  • Feedback > Grades
  • Less > More

Really, I think that the ultimate, underlying themes are:

  • What are the ingredients that make learning meaningful?
  • As a society, how are we going to influence, change, and revolutionize conditions to make public education better?
  • Before, during, and after learning, what really, really matters?

Literally living out the answers to these questions may shake the very foundations of our traditional education system. And we may never be the same.

If we change how we do things in these few months, only to go back to the way we’ve always thought, envisioned, and done things, then that would be a tragedy in itself. And we would always have this experience on which to reflect, reminiscing in our small circles, like:

“Remember back when that virus came and we had to change how we did things? Those were different times. I’m ____________ that we’re back to our old systems and structures.”

How would you fill in that blank? What word/phrase would you choose?

And if we explore, research, and rediscover these seemingly simple truths potentially lost in the fog of the bureaucracy of the past, then what will our future look like?

As a result of this lived experience right now, what will be forever changed?

How will we move forward?

*******************

A Few Notes to Archive the Moment

Schedule Changes: 

  • Cancelled: NC Public Schools, NCAA March Madness Basketball Tournament, Wimbledon, high school proms, graduation
  • PostPoned: MLB, NHL, NASCAR, and NBA schedules, Summer Olympics
  • Closed: restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms, small businesses, salons, schools, churches, parks, playground, meeting spaces, most international travel
  • Open: gas stations, grocery stores, hospitals, health care facilities, emergency services, trash/recycle pickup, greenways, daycares, drive-thrus, delivery services, mail, most domestic flights, essential jobs

Notable:

  • Teachers shift from face-to-face to online learning, impacting our practice.
  • Late Night talk shows are hosting shows from their home with no one laughing.
  • News shows have few reporters on TV, sitting far apart.
  • There’s a Corona Virus Taskforce briefing every day in the late afternoon.
  • All but a few central USA states are on mandatory shelter-in-place restriction.
  • China, Italy, Europe, Iran, New York headline the news with cases and deaths.
  • Requirements have been waived for end-of-year testing and graduations.
  • District leaders are having daily meetings on how to guide their communities.

Personal Notes:

  • A few years ago, I was diagnosed to die from pneumonia. I’ve heard that Corona Virus is worse than pneumonia. I can only imagine one step worse than pneumonia. What does this mean for my family and me? I’m in the best shape of my life, but should I risk being around people given my recent scare and having a wife and two-year-old at home?

Buzzworthy:

  • Unprecedented times
  • We’re all in this together
  • Social distancing
  • Flatten the curve
  • Wash hands, don’t touch face, stay home
  • 6 feet away
  • New normal
  • #CoronaVirus, #Covid19, #AloneTogether, #CovidGottaGoVid
  • We’ve never seen anything like it
  • Synchronous learning
  • Asynchronous learning
  • Remote, distance, virtual, online learning
  • Masks, ventialtors, tests

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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