Lessons Learned from the Pandemic: The Schools we Need
(Education Part I)
For over 50 years, I have been an educator. During our year of distance learning, I have been flooded with memories, ideas, and feelings about education. What have we learned? What is essential? What should we let go of? Do differently?
As we reopen schools, we have a tremendous opportunity to imagine the schools we all deserve (that’s Education, Part II).
But this Valentine’s weekend I want to simply pause to send out love to everyone who has done valiant work with distance learning.
Valentine’s Wishes to…
Families (including mine)
Families reorganized living spaces, made desks, purchased white boards, post its and planners to create school at home. Moms and Dads, you have tried so hard to support your kids. Some of you had to put your own work aside to do this; some of you had to leave kids home while you worked. Both were hard. And kids, how do we ever pay you enough respect for grabbing your computers, your earbuds and distance learning day after day?
State departments of education took on a far more directive role than we are used to in the US, trying to provide clarity when federal, state, health, safety, equity, finances have been in a changing, confusing mix.
School districts made sure kids had Chromebooks, wi fi hot spots, and meals, for families who wanted in person schooling and those who wanted their kids home. Never being sure what would be next, you had to be ready, thinking and rethinking the right combination of masks, social distancing, ventilation, testing, and vaccines.
Teachers quickly taught in a whole new way. You gave up classrooms, gyms, labs, the simple routines understood by all; you gave up eye contact, fist bumps, and a hand on the shoulder. We can’t tell you what it has meant when you sent an I-never- give-up-on-a-student email to a worried parent, or met a shy native Spanish-speaking kindergartener and her mom in the park, or wanted to extend deadlines so the term could “end on a good note.”
And so many others we cannot forget
Office staff who pride themselves on welcoming and helping who now see few kids and parents– and then with a mask on, at a distance, and during restricted hours. Custodians learning to clean to whole new levels. Lunch ladies who pack sack lunches without the reward of a smiling face and a thank you. IT folks assuring the lifeline of reliable and flexible technology. People who lost work because no one’s riding a bus. Paraprofessionals working without a team. Counselors and social workers supporting students through stress, loneliness, and depression. Nannies, babysitters, childcare workers, pod leaders coaching kids on a computer while parents work. Union leaders representing faculty and staff worried about their students, but also worried about themselves and their families. And all those working for our now and our future in the larger community: scientists, doctors and nurses, agriculture workers, grocery clerks, food banks, social welfare organizations.
At this strange time, we have learned how important our schools are to our country. We have learned that good teaching is hard—and highly valued. I remember when there was no Cabinet level US Department of Education, when many argued there was no Federal role in education, when an appointment to the US Committee on Education and Labor would hardly be noticed. All that has changed now. Thank you for showing such respect for education in our national life.
Happy Valentines to all of you.
Blog post coming in March:
The Progress Women have Made/What this Means for Girls
Blog post coming in April:
Lessons Learned from the Pandemic: The Schools we Need (Education Part II)