So, What Do We Do Now?
By Tamara Fyke
“What do we do now?” This is THE question on the minds and hearts of educators and administrators trying to determine next steps for re-opening schools with only a few months of this current year remaining, all the while knowing that there are many students who will not ever return to in-person learning. I believe that there is much more to this question than the present moment. After a year of the pandemic and remote learning, what do we do now with the education system?
This is an unprecedented opportunity for us to fix what is broken. Yes, our education system has been broken for many years. We have been putting test scores above students, school rankings above family needs, and CYA above doing the right thing for decades. The saddest thing that could happen is to emerge from this year of remote learning and go back to “normal”.
“Normal” wasn’t working for our students. The social pressures were getting in the way of real learning. In a conversation with a community leader last week, she shared stories of how her urban students have thrived with learning at home because they are not worried about what they wear or who is going to make fun of them.
Let’s dream about what could be. What could education look like if EdTech, SEL, and equity converge – not as silos but as core values?
Here are some ideas that my colleagues and I have been exploring:
Elevate student voice and choice – Give students the opportunity to choose whether they want to learn in person or online. Believe it or not, they know their learning styles and what they need. They are also aware of what social pressures they can handle. This may mean that children within the same family are learning in different ways, and that’s okay. Let’s put students at the center.
Respect and support families – For years, I have heard stories of parents who felt unwelcome at the school building, as if somehow as soon as their child walked over the threshold of the building, the child belonged to the school rather than the family. Enough already! We are all on the same team – Team Kid! Let us come around the family with resources to help them and their child be successful. That may mean hotspots or meals, GED classes or laundry rooms, in-home tutoring or late-night childcare. Let us lift up families!
Teach 21st century skills – This includes both technology and SEL. Our students need to know how to determine if online sources are legitimate, how to organize files on their desktop, and how to manage their calendars. They also need to know how to collaborate with a team using online tools, how to create and edit video content, and how to complete difficult tasks on time.
Let us prepare students for real world success.
Given the anticipated shift in working environments with more people choosing to work from home even after the pandemic, we must equip and empower our students to excel in this brave new world. It’s time for change!
About the author
Tamara Fyke is an educator and social entrepreneur with a passion for kids, families, and urban communities. She is the creator and author of Love In A Big World, which provides mental health, SEL, and wellness curriculum and content. During quarantine, Tamara created MusiCity Kids, an online educational show for kids ages 6-12 that addresses health, movement, character development, STEAM, and more.
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.