As the world starts getting a grip over the pandemic, the curve flattens and then starts decreasing, the economy will begin to reopen, establishments will begin to reopen and gradually all will normalize. But it will be a while before that normalcy returns on this earth for us humans.
Looking at the way the schools world over have adapted to new style of teaching and learning, one cannot but appreciate and look at awe at the way the teachers, children and the school leaders have kept the systems running. It has not been an easy task for either of the stakeholders-faculty, children and parents, and in some areas across the world, the children still do not have any access to teacher / school led instruction and have been left to fend for their own learning.
This huge revolution in the way the children are learning and schools are functioning is perhaps the biggest lesson in change that will have a far-reaching impact, much deeper than what we can foresee. This New Normalcy will change the way we perceive this process of imparting education, the task of imparting education, our school infrastructures and foremost our mindsets.
Teaching as a Profession:
For one it will change the way teaching is perceived as a profession in most parts of the world, it will emerge as a much more respected profession not just in words but in the truest sense. Parents for one, have understood the unrealistic demands that they place on teachers, forgetting that the teachers prime job is to help the learner evolve into an independent intelligent human being capable of working through complex issues. Their job is to add on to the values that the home provides and not to instill values in both the child and the home.
Re-imagining Classrooms and Schools:
This big change has also changed the way we look at classrooms -globally-across demographics and economic strata. Classrooms are no longer limited to the four walls but extending way beyond. Remote learning has proven to be successful in children as young as play group. The in-person learning cannot be replaced by screens, however we can all rethink the way we conduct the whole rigmarole of schooling, making it a drudgery instead of an exciting journey. Classrooms are crammed with numbers, in some cases teachers not even being able to remember the names of their students.
Policy makers and schools need to find more innovative ways of schooling, with perhaps a 75-25 divide time divide between in person and online teaching. Embracing flipped classrooms and blended learning will lead to less anxiety and stress among teachers and students.
Re-imagining what we teach and how we teach:
One of the biggest challenges that some youth faced was how to manage their kitchens and daily chores. The generation that manages tik-tok videos in a jiffy is lost when it comes to cooking a simple meal for themselves, so dependent are they on take outs, house help or a helping hand. This is more prominent an issue where there is abundance of house help.
Farm schools, cookery classes, home management should not just be limited to finishing schools or a specific pedagogy like Montessori or Waldorf, but a must for all schools. Technology is the dearest tool we have, that gave us the much-required support and path to walk on during these VUCA times. Schools and organizations have now understood the impact of socio emotional learning in its truest sense and not just as a touch and go task.
A revamped comprehensive curriculum is what should emerge after this lockdown -not just in the progressive schools but across the world.
The ideal curriculum would include Self-Help skills, Socio Emotional Learning and Technology as strong drivers. This is a good time for policy makers and leaders to study various models across the world and build the learning into their own systems and processes. The schools that say that they already have these incorporated into their curriculum could very well do a temperature check and find out how authentic and true are the experiences for the children.
Focus on Continuous Professional Development:
For one the current situation has brought with it a plethora of webinars, online content that teachers can use to up-skill themselves. The sad part is that it always existed somewhere on the internet, on portals of some progressive schools that believed in sharing best practices. The problem was that in majority of schools worldwide the teachers never realized their impact and did not think that they needed to up-skill. New thoughts based on research and current demands are met with high resistance by these pockets of teaching community. This biggest lesson of our times has made the teachers realize that they should wait for no one and up-skill themselves through you tube videos, case studies and reaching out to colleagues who are better placed.
If we desire self-directed learners in classrooms then we ought to be self-directed learners as teachers and teacher leaders. Professional development is as much the teachers responsibility as that of the school leaders. School leaders can guide, arrange for resources but eventually it is the teachers who need to internalize their responsibility and impact.
Parents have finally realized what really matters—is it the beautiful handwriting or the ability of the child to be able to express. The exams that stand cancelled have forced parents to look at smaller capsules of interest-based learning that the child can avail online. In remote, economically backward pockets, the requirement to keep children well fed and safe has taken precedence over anything else. Families have reconnected and awakened to the unrealistic demands that they put on schools and teachers, not supporting the cause of education. They are understanding the need to support their children to grow as self-directed learners, appreciating the diverse learning styles and the emotional demands that the various age groups have. Parents have hopefully understood the need to instill values of cooperation, care and compassion right from day one and not leaving the upbringing entirely to schools.
Each one -the school, the parent and the student has their own role to play. Just as in theater, if either misses out on our part the play will fall flat. So let us play our parts well.
This pandemic has brought out the best and the worst. Make use of this opportunity that exists in this mayhem. Let us revamp the way we perceive the school system, the curriculum, the people-teachers, parents and students, and education in totality. May the lessons learnt this time make a positive impact, an impact that lasts for decades to come, giving rise to a society that is less bondage to redundant systems and practices.
Thankfully, we do not have to reinvent the wheel but just look a wee bit at history and a wee bit at new research and wee bit on the internet. We shall find some existing models that are entrenched in strong foundations of freedom, progress and humanitarian values. Do your little bit at your little end, and create big impact with small subtle yet significant changes-the big overturn has already been brought about by the pandemic. This is the chance -grab it!!
This time it is not the textbooks or tools for teaching and learning but the big cultural and mindset shift that will be the game changer.