Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Pandemic school decisions: have no regrets

Everywhere I look, there are discussions about how to do school in the fall of 2020 during a pandemic. My advice is to decide in a way that leaves you with the least amount of regrets.

Personally, since I have underlying health conditions that put me at risk of grave illness or dying, I opted to retire. I also opted to retire because as one colleague noted I could not run a "COVID classroom." I know that good learning does not involve tight rows, little to no contact, and a teacher teaching solely fromt the front of the classroom. 

To me, most of the discussions by decision makers are about warehousing children so their parents can get on with their lives and work. I don't believe that a good education is about warehousing children, but instead a good education is about giving students the experiences, skills, knowledge, and concepts necessary to live good lives and support a free country. 

If I were in charge of the world, my first choice would be safety. Children can make up a year of school, but they can't make up a lost life.

If I were in charge of the world, I would help families to support their children's good living and learning at home with childcare stipends and community supports to make this a reality until we get a vaccine. Work places can help out too by making centers for safe childcare at work to help parents who want to work. 

I would also support schools' ability to foster robust remote learning in sensitive, creative, and positive ways to help families and others continue children's educations in effective ways. Educators are well skilled to do that work, and fortunately the technology exists to allow educators to lead those programs.

Many school systems, communities, and states will not make good decisions. Some will have regrets. With this in mind, families, teachers, and students will have to put their own safety first and do what they can to make as safe as possible a year.

Bottom line, children are natural learners. If a child reads or listens to at least one well-chosen book a week (or one picture book a day), signs onto Khan Academy and does the math exercises at their level, watches good documentaries about social studies topics, explores the natural world outside and via experiments with household items (there are a zillion of these online), socializes with a small pod of friends and family members, and researches and creates creative presentations related to their questions and topics of interest, that child will make substantial gains in learning. 

As I've noted multiple times, the pandemic has laid the inequity and problems of society bare. There are many, many positive ways we can respond to this to make our communities and the nation as a whole stronger. But first, everyone has to look out for their personal safety and the safety of their communities. Everyone should operate so that they have few to no regrets during this relatively short-term problem. You can do this.