Looking Down the Road in 2021
By Christy Martin Ed.D.
Now that the year 2020 is over, we are all breathing a sigh of relief. Most of us are hoping that a new year will bring a new, more positive chapter to our lives and those around us. Educators are looking for relief in a year fraught with change and stress. Parents are looking for an education anchor, something they can rely on for their children, and our students are just looking for hope in a year that has been unmapped and stormy.
We have learned some lessons from this year
School is important. We all realized that school was important for children. We have realized its importance in our world not just academically, but economically, emotionally, and physically. Lack of school has pushed all these things to the limit.
Our job infrastructure is weak at some key places. Technology, skills trades, and unskilled labor is appreciated now more than ever. The lack of workers in all these areas has emphasized the weakness of our country. We need to remember that our end goal is a citizenship that measures its success by its contribution to the whole of society. That contribution takes many forms.
Adults and children need stability. The mental health of all of us has been challenged with isolation, change, lack of physical contact and our human need for love. Children have been the most vulnerable, facing an education world that has moved online and in person, challenging them and the limits of those who care for them.
We all need each other. Online education has been most successful when it is collaborative with someone in charge on both ends involved in the endeavor. Children need oversight, assistance, and motivation from in-person facilitators. Our world is smaller and larger than we thought, its challenges take us all working together to succeed.
For some youth, technology is not an educational option. Whether because of the lack of infrastructure or their own individual needs, online school will never provide the means for some youth to flourish. Special needs youngsters, children without support at home all need the physical space and support that schools provide.
Academic achievement is easily lost. We have seen small increases at best; in our most at-risk communities we have seen major losses. We must stay stable and focused.
How can we begin anew in 2021?
Schools need a major overhaul. It won’t be quick, and it won’t be easy, but we need to be looking more closely at what the country, state, and local community needs to stay economically, physically, and emotionally healthy. Schools need to realize that they serve a need that is greater than academics. Our kids need the stability and physical safety of school. They need, not just the academic challenges, but the shelter, reliable schedule, and love that school adults and their peers give them. Our communities now realize the importance of school and now is the time to work hand-in-hand with them to provide the total support for our community’s youth.
We should focus on allowing our children the opportunity to explore different types of options for their future. College is not and should not be for everyone. Trades schools are excellent options but will require our best and brightest as do college or university paths.
We need to be reality focused.
We spend a lot of time trying to teach some young people advanced academic skills they will never use. Instead, we should have a real-world focus. Many of our youth need life skills, job skills, and financial management classes. These are lessons that should not be taught in a lecture classroom; but with project-based learning, collaborative community experiences, and high expectations.
Schools should be more involved in the physical needs of the community and its children. Social services should not just be knocking at the door of their education big sisters but should be camped out there with their focus on schools. The school community is highly aware of what is going on with its youth. Using that resource would provide optimum safety and oversight for our youth.
Schools have the physical infrastructure to provide food to children and the community. They are an untapped resource as our communities recover and provide for their inhabitants. We are told many are hungry. We can feed them with collaboration and community support.
Let’s Look Down the Road
For some, these proposals may seem outrageous and an overreach. With an open mind and an expanded future focus, we can look down the road for individual communities.
As Robert Frost said in “The Road Not Taken”,
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
About the author
Christy Martin recently retired after more than 35 years as an educator K-12 and post-secondary as well as several years as a coordinator of programs for youth aging out of foster care. She writes about what she knows from experiences in education and social services. Christy welcomes comments on her articles. Communicate with her via email at email@example.com. She can also be found on Christy Martin | Facebook, Christy S. Martin (@ChristySMartin1) / Twitter, and (4) Christy Martin, Ed.D. | LinkedIn.
This article was originally published by The Learning Counsel, a research institute and news media hub focused on providing context for the shift in education to digital curriculum.