Obviously 2020 has been a year with quite a bit going on. Anxiety, uncertainty, depression, anger, politics, injustice, school challenges, “lost generations of learners,” and on and on. I hear it everyday. I want to let everyone know that, yes, those are legitimate things. It is easy these days to point out the bad things. They are affecting many of us and I do not intend to discount anyone’s feelings or bad events that have taken place. I am simply looking at some good things coming out of the educational systems because of drastic changes. So I leaned in and listened to students, staff, administration, and parents to find some good things happening in education. Here are the top 5 things I’ve witnessed so far in 2020.
Empathy is a top priority
There has been a mass shift in understanding in everyone’s situation. As an educator, I have seen into the lives and homes of my students in a deeper way than ever. The environments vary widely. There are great environments and there are terrible ones. Teachers are understanding the student first as they are forced to in remote and hybrid situations. The stakeholders in the system are also sharing more humanistic challenges that are occurring. Students are becoming more open to reaching out. I personally have been on more individual chats, emails, and messaging through our learning management system (Canvas) than ever this year with students and parents. We are hearing and learning what it is like to be our students these days.
New Technology Tools
The amount of teachers who lacked technological skills is shrinking! When there is a huge change that requires the shift in technology to keep going, you either learn or fight it. While witnessing both of these sides happening initially, we are far enough along the path in the pandemic that most educators are moving forward learning new technology. All kinds of learning mechanisms are being used. Teachers are testing out new things with students daily. Sure, there are failures and flops in technology, and that is where the learning is. So many new tools are being explored for our students. EdTech is now working with schools like never before. There are great strides in understanding how technology works while integrating learning outcomes.
Remote Conferences and No More Snow Days
The days of missing school in the blizzard and making up days into the summer break are over. My teenage son would argue this is a terrible thing about the snow days. We have learned in a short time that remote learning can work. I am not going to argue that it is the always optimal, however, we can do it now across the board when needed. We are now able to remotely do parent-teacher conferences. This opens up a more flexible opportunity for our parents and schools to communicate. Even for me as a parent, I love this. I do not have to travel into the school to speak with the 1 or 2 teachers my kid is struggling with. I can just do a 10 minute conference from home on my couch. Teachers can also be home with their families during these conferences as well. Flexibility in communication and school will help everyone.
Education reform is in our face
For years and years we have been complaining about the parts of education that are failing yet we keep doing them. From schedules, to curriculum, to bells, we have been wondering why we still do these things. Nothing ever changed much. 2020 said “hold my beer.” Because we are digging into new ways of teaching in a pandemic, it is opening new ideas and questions about why. We are seeing and experiencing pain and suffering in the learning process. I understand the pain is not good, however, pain is a necessity to grow. Before the pandemic, there has been minor pain, yet not enough to change. It’s here now. We are seeing so many opportunities to change our system from curriculum to learning and engagement times of the day. Even learning environments are changing. Teachers are doing interesting things to teach and reaching outside their comfort zones. Students are becoming flexible learners. Different paths in education are being sought out as well. College plans are changing rapidly. People are questioning everything. When this happens, reform happens.
We are Failing Together
You read that right. We are failing together. Our students and educators are failing through this together. Failure is where the real learning happens. I have seen more educators work WITH their students to figure things out in 2020. I personally have tried technology with my students that we all learned from… even when it didn’t work. The power is no longer held by the teacher. We have been forced to accept the things we can’t control and learn about the things we can. Humble learning environments are evolving as we all work together in these times. This type of real learning is being embraced by many.
So there you have my five things I have noticed that are good for education. I want to restate that times of change are never easy. It is difficult, frustrating, and scary. I know that people are struggling though this, especially in educational spaces. I just want to remind everyone that through aloof this, we are learning a lot. Going BACK will not be an option. We have moved forward. I think we should take a moment and celebrate the fact that we are all learning and moving forward… even in 2020!
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