As a society, we have learned many things about learning during the current pandemic. Some of it will be disregarded as soon as we go back to life as usual. But many of the lessons that we learned will go with us, guiding us as we move forward and showing us what we can do to make the American education system better for our students…and our teachers.
First, let’s talk about our teachers. Our teachers work hard. Much harder than we ever imagined. Preparing a classroom lesson that accommodates 20 plus different learning styles is extremely challenging. Preparing that lesson plan to teach the same 20 plus students online is an extraordinary feat. We have found that the hardest working teachers have made online class times interactive, as they try to motivate students from a distance rather than just assigning them work. We have seen math teachers teaching interactive Zoom lessons with students, giving them the opportunity to ask questions and provide answers. We have seen English teachers leading book discussions with groups of students online, keeping them engaged and helping them to continue to be active readers, even when there is no physical class time. These teachers have given our children gifts. In a time marked by suggested isolation, these teachers have maintained vital connections with their students, fostering classmate connections as well.
Second, online learning during a pandemic is not homeschooling. Homeschooling is a choice. These families are dedicated to this process, not forced into this process. Moreover, homeschooling families are typically part of a larger community. They are not sitting, isolated, at home all day. They hold group classes and activities with other homeschoolers. The parents in charge of homeschooling know how to teach subject matter or have specialists working with them who come to them to teach. Most parents with children in public or private schools neither know how to teach subject matter nor will most children LISTEN to anything their non-teacher parents attempt to teach them. Everything from basic mathematical building blocks to chemistry and history is taught differently now. How many times over the last few weeks has your child – regardless of his or her age – told you that you have no idea what you are doing? And if your child is being assigned work without a dedicated teacher working through it with him/her, they don’t know what they are doing either.
Which brings us to our third point. Never have we ever seen the value of interactive, experiential learning more than during this pandemic. Interactive learning sharpens critical thinking skills, which are essential to developing analytic reasoning skills. Students build their imaginative skills, logical skills, and collaborative skills through interactive learning. These are all skills that will help students become successful in life and in the workplace. This is so apparent as some students receive worksheets to complete daily, without any interaction or valuable communication from teachers. While parents are not teachers, everyone should be asking their children open-ended, thought-provoking questions to help them continue to build these skills outside of the traditional classroom environment.
Fourth, students with learning challenges are having an even harder time with online learning. Does your child suffer from attention deficits? Processing challenges? Dyslexia? Executive functioning and organizational challenges? Sitting in large classrooms is typically challenging. Now try putting these students in front of a screen for six hours of class with 20 plus other people. These students crave small classroom or one-on-one instruction under optimal circumstances. Online learning is causing many students additional stress and adding challenges to the learning process. To help these students stay on track and continue to learn, they require individualized instruction and the extra attention they should be receiving daily in the school setting. If, in the midst of the pandemic, we ignore the regular accommodations that these students receive, they will come back to school far behind expectations and will struggle to re-adjust.
Throughout this challenging time, remember that GAMECHANGER is here to support our students and our teachers. We continue to have one-on-one, interactive, online tutoring for students from preschool through college. And we are supporting our community with regular online book readings that can be easily accessed on our YouTube page. Check out Pooh’s Grand Adventure here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNQdBE2ZI1U
In the meantime, stay healthy, stay safe, and stay home so that we can get back to life before the pandemic.