Updated: Apr 23
The world is turned on it's head at the moment. Personally we have all been shook and taken out of our comfort zones and thrown into a space we might have only seen in films.
One particular sphere being affected and one I will be focusing on in this post, is education. It's not only a subject close to home (last pun about isolation), but I've seen the impact on households being forced to start teaching, entertaining and disciplining their kids at home.
What do you mean 'Start teaching, entertaining and disciplining kids'? If you've asked the above question, you just showed what the first problem is we are facing. For the most part, in most households around the world, the above activities were delegated to anyone other than the parents/caretakers of our young people. Now that delegation is out of the question, enter the 'knocked off their feet' parents who realized homeschooling is not for the faint hearted.
In all seriousness, my post isn't about dishing out offence or complaining about our current predicament on my perceived platform, the point of it is to create an uneasy awareness about what is happening in education at the moment. Why uneasy? Because if you feel uneasy, you might feel the need to start moving or doing something about it.
Before we start talking about the problem at an institutional level, let's acknowledge the elephant in the room. The simple shift to 'online education' was not that simple for two reasons: firstly, our Facebook moms who started drinking on the job after week 1 of homeschooling, aren't realizing the effect of their delegation from years prior. Even if they are now in control of the 'classroom', a computer screen still does most of the teaching. The second implication of an online curriculum places all the non-internet-having citizens at an immediate disadvantage. If the non-digital parents too, are guilty of delegation, it means that there will be no substitute in the coming months for these particular students.
For once I will leave the department out of this for now (department officials wipes sweat off of forehead). Moving on to schools however, we deal with a majority of institutions who are at the one hand skilled and at the other completetely unequipped to deal with the inefficiency passed on to us by either the curriculum or the people enforcing it. In essence half of the staff can adapt to online teaching, the other can't or even won't.
'When we get back to normal' is a phrase I've heard a few times these days. What that means is that people are unaware of the far reaching effects this will have on the very institution itself. We won't get back to normal, we won't return to classrooms in the same condition that we left them. The hard truth is that the 'late adopters' to new technologies and the benefits and advantages it will have on education as a whole, will undoubtedly become obsolete once we return.
I'm digging deep now, taking a stab at my own kind, but some teachers are part the problem. The radical shift to online education made us realize we are not at all equipped to handle proper education in the 21st Century. If you think you with you PowerPoint and and three minute YouTube video taken with a camera phone are not part of the problem, think again. My first attempt at online teaching was also horrific, but we have to keep going. Read https://er.educause.edu/articles/2020/3/the-difference-between-emergency-remote-teaching-and-online-learning to find out why.
The reason I'm not poking the stick in the direction of the Department of Education now, is that it has already been struggling before the crises (no offence guys). Blaming them would be like blaming a horse cart for not outrunning a Ferrari...and now the Ferrari has a proffesional driver behind the wheel too (Covid Schumacher? Lewis Coronaton?).
Who are the role players then?
I'm pointing a lot of fingers I know, but if the uneasiness hasn't set in by now, I hope it will in the next bit. From the boardrooms to the bedrooms, and all the individuals inbetween, we need the 'Village' to re-ignite itself. Simply put, these people I have just mentioned are now the role players in education. I know, it's like in the movies The Bad News Bears and Bench Warmers where you see these pale faced unathletic kids go up against major teams (Once again, no offence).
Now I'm not comparing everyone to pale faced kids, I myself am not neccessarily a jock. What I am revering to is the unpreparedness and lack of skills to pull off the 'miracle happy ending' both the previously mentioned movies had.
The extreme shock caretakers of children went through when realizing they would now have the young ones at home, could've been prevented if they initially realized their incredible role in the education of their kids. Yes, teachers are trained and paid to do the teaching, but we do much more than just teach. So too, are the roles of guardians more than just making food or providing a bed. Have a listen to Valenture Institute Chancellor talk on the important role of a community in education: https://www.valentureinstitute.com/blog/rob-lue-harvard-prof-and-valenture-institute-chancellor-the-future-of-education-ep-01.
"It takes a village to raise a child", is how the proverb goes, and we need the village to step up now, whether we are trained to do so or not. Our youth deserves a nation that steps up and plays a collective role in educating them, now more than ever. There will be plenty of time for protest or to complain at the Department of Education after the lockdown.
I could write for hours about the curriculum and how education is not living up to it's name, but that wouldn't get us anywhere...maybe later. The takeaway from this post is that I want us all to consider the role we have to play and not act out of fear or panic in order to cope with our current situation. Yes, learners still need to be educated and yes parents or caretakers aren't magically going to turn into teachers...but we need a plan of action.
Firstly we need to value the immense impact that teachers have on children's lives. In your isolation as parents, you can appreciate it now more than ever.
Secondly, don't let work-stress or fear about the virus be taken out on the young people. To them it's like an extended vacation and an exciting prospect to learn from home. Step into your new educating role and truly be a light in kids lives in this time.
Lastly to our teachers. Now is the time to break free from curriculum grips and expectations of HOD's. Yes the content still needs to be taught, but really start re-imagining how you will educate FOR the future. Getting through a textbook won't help kids at home or even at school if their creative thinking, innovation skills and imagination are blotted out in the process. Get reskilled and adapt to your new role as a non-contact teacher.