There is a moral imperative for us as we move though the opening of school in whatever form that business is taking for you.
I find myself very conflicted with the personal stress of my own family’s choices around the return to school thus far set against the experience of heroes out there risking their life to save us. Layer this with the historic and long overdue examination of tenets of race and equality in our institutions and 2020 has sure thrown a lot at us.
My children's’ decorated 98 year old great-grandfather says that in his memory only the start of WWII compares to the uncertainty we face today. It certainly makes for some pretty severe emotional swings.
The mass of articles on how we, and our schools, will never be the same seems totally right to me one minute and then I remember that I’ve spent enough time in education to have been proven wrong on several sure-to-change-the world movements.
I think the difference this time is that it's hard to imagine anything approaching the old normal. Staggered scheduling, flipped classrooms, virtual office hours, on-and-off quarantine, and home learning are all part of school now. Pile on the stress students and families are experiencing through all this and it is clear we need more flexibility for teachers and learners. Systems with a willingness to reexamine some of the deep institutional pieces like grades, tests, and for God’s sake, please, seat time will show us the future of school.
I am certainly not saying that we aren’t seeing absolutely heroic efforts from parents, teachers, systems and the whole education industry right now. In the spring we connected and supported our students as best we remotely could. The new normal arrived very abruptly and we all jumped in and adapted to our new parts. We have seen our educators step up though this and we must celebrate that. Tell their stories, capture the value, and start the work to make sure they have what they really need moving forward.
Systems are now in the nitty-gritty of opening in-person back up and it’s complex, fluid based on your community, and involves real risk planning. This is where those dreamy articles about opportunity for better certainly resonate, but two things, base the plans on data you are gathering (or have a way to gather) and this MUST address the now impossible to ignore inequity of our current system. This is the time for each community to ask what is most important for them in a school and then find the way to deliver it.
So what’s it look like?
As the pandemic began, MIDAS Education made the conscious choice to not rush in and attempt to bring our now more than ever needed technology into scrambling systems that were forced to jump into remote learning. Instead, we listened. Our partners represent the leaders of educational systems and as we moved from the scramble of the spring to the opening this year we saw three big areas of focus emerge:
Trust - leaders must message that through all this work there is trust among the professionals in the system. We are all going to do this together, it will be messy, and that’s okay. Teachers will be allowed to try and fail and try again to best connect with students in this new environment.
Data - to avoid making more of the same mistakes we must be gathering data so we can make best informed decisions. What we’re going to measure must be transparent and start with the most important community values.This year will require clear metrics and corresponding dashboards that can be trusted at all levels.
Flexibility - all systems - technology, communication, and data must provide and support opportunities for mastery learning. Access online means beyond posted assignments to giving educators tools to both connect and differentiate for their students while tracking learning progress to master skills and standards.
We know we have great disparagement between the actual and needed skill of our educators to deliver quality distance learning.
Make no mistake, this is not the teacher's fault. Their love of their students is what led a set of them to learn and begin the practice of online learning even before covid19. It is that same desire that led another set to meet the grow learners' social-emotional well being that is so needed as schools open in whatever form or fashion. So a varied skill set is needed now more than ever and the best leaders are supporting individuals and looking at the resources they have across the whole system.
Better PD is immediately necessary to get some teachers going with distance learning and support the advanced designers on the team. We need to trust that learners at every level, provided the right support will advance their learning, we must trust that our students and teachers are truly lifelong learners.
Trust our teachers and provide them resources to become the modern teacher.
A system of trusting PEOPLE plus a flexible and data-driven PLATFORM is needed for next year. There must be data and value available at the macro and micro level of the system so every parent, student, teacher, principal and superintendent is on the same page around measuring what has value and then telling that story.
The hard part is taking the first step. We miss the mark by painting a lovely picture about what could and should be without providing a place to start. MIDAS Education would like to humbly suggest that you start by offering Microcredentials for staff or students or better yet both. For more on that work visit our site and stay tuned.
We have a moral imperative to support each other where we can now more than ever. If there is any way in which the MIDAS team or technology can help in your work, please contact us.