A Teacher's Perspective on Schooling in a Pandemic and Beyond
Recently, we at K-12 Clothing – Wesley and Debora Jones, had the pleasure of hosting Erin Girard on our school-based podcast: The Multipurpose Room. An Outschool teacher and class quality specialist, Ms. Girard joined us as we traced the developmental trajectory of our children’s education system over the last five years, with a particular emphasis on the recent coronavirus period and what possibilities the future could hold.
It comes as no shock that educational opportunities have drastically changed since the early years of the 2010 decade. Back then, there were brick and mortar schools and homeschooling. For homeschooling, there was support from charter schools and co-ops which provided parents with a network of individuals. Of course, in the last five to six years, these options have evolved to include more virtual options and over the last year, in particular, the number of schooling options and modalities available has exploded. The last six months have seen more development in terms of educational options than have the past few years. For instance, Outschool has been around for a while but started teaching core curriculum in light of the pandemic.
The shift of the last six months will have lasting impacts to education. It has shifted people’s view of education and changed the attitude towards schooling from home (whether homeschooling or virtual), with many people realizing that it can actually be a viable solution or alternative to traditional education. It has also shifted our curriculum and extra curricular activities. We are no longer bound by what is offered within the local community but, as our blog post on global schooling resources shared, students and teachers have virtual access to many activities around the world in a variety of subjects.
Of course, nothing is without a downside, which is why there are downfalls to this educational evolution. There is an argument that this shift has exacerbated inequalities already present in education. There is a concern around of equal access to resources and technologies and whether all students and school districts have the resources to continue to teach virtually. Some organizations, like Outschool.org are jumping in to help by fundraising and allowing students with fewer resources to access materials at no cost. There is also the matter of students who learn differently and whether an online system will adequately meet their needs or whether they will be left behind. There is also an issue of virtual education being seen as the same as in-person education and thus a lack of alterations being made to the course content, the type of teaching, and the activities being carried out thereby rendering some of the learning ineffective. And of course, there’s the age-old problem of excessive screen time – an issue that is just escalated by virtual education. However, this last problem could easily be overcome in a virtual setting, as online school typically lasts an average of two to three hours a day instead of the traditional six hours, actually leaving children with more time to explore other avenues.
Although much of the discussion around the change in education focuses on the students and their parents, we also have to consider another vital part of the education system: the teachers! Life for teachers has changed dramatically. Veteran teachers have had to adjust immensely to the online system, with having to adjust their tried and true curriculum as well as learn the various technologies. One key factor that teachers can focus on is to be open to change and to not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. After all, parents have also undergone massive change with remote work, so they are often able to help out with the technological aspect in their own way.
We expect the educational system to continue to evolve. The pandemic has pushed a lot of evolution quickly but it has also forced us all to be more creative and resourceful terms than ever before. It’s also allowed children to become better equipped with programs such as Zoom from a young age, and this is likely to show in their professional lives when they’ll be much more capable than the generation previous to them was. While we all adjust to the changes, it is absolutely vital it is to treat ourselves, our students, and our teachers with kindness during this pandemic. Allow everyone to make mistakes. In terms of the educational world, we will only excel after trial and error, and the important thing is for us to keep going, not to be afraid of failure.