And not in the (post pandemia) way you are thinking…
This is probably the first time I have been tasked to write a “back to school” post, and I do not dread it – and neither should you. This year – and for the first time in a looooong time, we can address the institution we have come to know and tolerate as education – and bring it into this century (and have it meet our children where they are – the way it should be).
What do I mean by this? First, watch this video of Sir Ken Robinson explaining why education looks the way it does today; and then we can move on from there. In a nutshell, though – for those of you saving the video to watch later – education as an institution was modeled after production line performance because it was created to address the needs of production line workers and their children – all those many years ago during the industrial revolution. As a result of the educational institution’s inception, today, education is all about standardized results and conformity, much like the factory production lines of years gone and nothing like the world and how it looks and is being shaped today.
So, why not let post-pandemia lead the educational revolution we are so badly in need of?
Yes, get those school supplies, check those backpack straps – do all the things your traditional “back to school” postings tell you to do – BUT, also let us capitalize on the opportunities the last two years of adversity have presented us with.
Going Back To School: Academics
Students and parents across this country are going back to school – and that means different things for different people in different areas of this country. However, the one thing that is the same for all – no matter how you survived school through pandemia, the 2021/2022 academic year will be a more traditional school setting than the last year (and even than the one before that) – and let’s stop these traditions from continuing – while we can – meaning, right now.
Right now, educators and administrators are welcoming students back and inundating parents with “closing the gap” types of information. In April of 2020, the Institute of Educational Sciences published this study. Practically speaking, the study aimed to show that:
While it is difficult to speculate on what missing months of school may mean for student achievement, research on seasonal learning and summer learning loss can offer some insights that can help educators, policymakers, and families understand, plan for, and address some potential impacts of this extended pause in classroom instruction when students return to school. To provide preliminary estimates of the potential impacts of the extended pause of academic instruction during the coronavirus crisis, the authors leverage research on summer loss and use a national sample of over five million students.
In my very humble opinion, as both a parent and educator, studies like this are our “back to school” and, in general, the problem with school/education / the educational system. Proper education has educators meeting students where they are – not where a standardized plot point says they should be. In allowing our institutions of education to adopt performance-based hierarchies, we have also allowed the institution of education to muster our children’s creativity and create ridiculous norms on the spectrum of childhood development. Here is a great study and implementable plan on the benefits of competency-based education, which meets students where they are and tailors a path to move them ahead constantly.
Instead of becoming inundated with “your child is so behind” and/or “the gap is getting bigger” rhetoric, parents – use this post-pandemic opportunity to demand that the school embrace your child where they are and support them moving forward – no more, no less.
And this brings me to my following SubHeading:
Going Back To School: Emotionally
Paramount to academics will always be the mental and emotional health of your child. Your child has just survived a global pandemic spanning two years. From babies to teenagers – everything they knew one day completely changed – and drastically – the next. We already talked about the devastating isolation our children experienced here. And now we are two years later, and many social, emotional, hard, and soft skills are no more than lost opportunities.
Parents and educators, we must decide once and for all: what is more critical, the standardized profile or score or the actual child?
Does it matter how behind academically our children are when we know and experience how much they have suffered socially and emotionally these last two years?
Parents, educators know all about Maslow’s Hierarchy – in order for children to reach their true potential – in any arena, there is a hierarchy of needs that need to be met – see the diagram below.
Unfortunately, post pandemia, we are AT BEST a collective Green. This Back To School year is indeed a call to action for parents and educators.
Going Back To School: Only For Real This Time
In the end, this school year – more than ever before we have a chance to revolutionize a broken and outdated system (truly). If we are honest with ourselves – it will be up to parents to hold their schools accountable for the mental and emotional wellbeing of their children BEFORE we even start to talk about academics.
This – meeting students where they are and respecting their emotional states on a par with their academic abilities – should always be standard practice – even if it took a hundred years and a pandemic to make us finally standardize this practice…So, parents, how up for this challenge are you?