This week I lived through my 19th first day of school as a high school educator, and, except for my very first year, I don’t ever remember being more anxious about the start of a year.
It was fine…just very different. The halls were empty, and the only students in my classroom were my own kids who I was allowed to take to school with me. I wasn’t able to teach them much though.
Our school district opted to go all virtual for the first three and a half weeks before transitioning to students being back in the classroom after Labor Day. Students were given the choice to remain virtual indefinitely or return for face-to-face instruction. It’s my understanding that about 40% of the students at our school made the decision to stay at home.
Once we do have students back in class, all of the teachers will be doing double duty essentially. We will be required to teach our face-to-face students during the school day while also posting assignments, lectures, notes, etc. for our online students. We will also have to disinfect the desks between each class period and wear masks while we are teaching. It’s going to be a lot, but it’s what we have for now.
And we’re teachers. We adapt. It’s what we do.
As much as I’ve thought about it, I don’t think there is a “correct” answer for whether or not we should send students (and teachers, and administrators, and bus drivers, and secretaries, and…) back to school.
I do, however, think schools and districts should use this as an opportunity to rethink how education is done. Again, I don’t have all of the answers here, but I feel very strongly that we should lean on technology more than we do.
Is it really necessary for a high school student to wake up at 6:30 in the morning to go to school when the same curriculum could be delivered online for him to access at any point during the day? Online high school would free him up to 1) work, 2) take care of a younger sibling, or 3) take care of an ailing parent, among other things. I finished my entire graduate degree with only one face-to-face class, and that was just my choice.
If we’d been in this same situation ten years ago, I would probably feel differently about it, but educational technology has come a long way in a decade.
Yes, being in the classroom is preferable for many reasons, but it’s not always essential.
If we in education were empowered enough by the powers-that-be to put our collective minds together, there’s no telling what kind of plans we could come up with for education.
But then again, I’m tired right now.
Maybe we should just wait for the next pandemic to fix things.