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Schools Need An Online community Manager

The genie will not go back into the bottle.

Now that online and remote learning have engaged students, teachers and parents in a different way, this engagement pathway has been opened. And will continue. Tiger moms, Soccer dads, helicopter parents, PTA person, and more will lead the charge. And online engagement will remain a key medium between schools and their achievements.

At this point of time, schools that are using online learning are asking their teachers do do it all – manage the learning, progress the syllabus, retain attendance and engagement, deal with the parents, and deal with the online relationships over a patchy medium. What with the call drops, the pressure on device usage at home, the cost of accessing the internet and the lack of training for excellence online, teachers are feeling the strain of maintaining these relationships. Neither they, nor the systems are ready for this.

Right now, we are all in a very supportive space, and the tolerance for initial glitches is high. Soon it will not be so, and the fundamental problems with pedagogies will combine with tech anxieties and will need to be managed. In the best case scenario, the community will come together and share both learning and wellness. In the worst case scenario, there will be a fragmentation of the school community. In every case, the community will need support and management dedicated to the online space.

Schools are not a homogenous unit. Students come in all types, some shy, some fast learners, some impatient, and some garrulous. Parents come in different shapes too, some competitive, some supportive, some inquisitive, and certainly interested. Teachers, we know, from having run schools for decades, need support, comfort, motivation, management and validation – for they too are – human. Teachers are at the front line of the action in the shift to physically distanced learning, and yet their job is to retain connect. They cannot do it alone, not all of them can do it alone. Not when the primary task is to ensure the social and mental well being of the students, and by extension their families.

During a crisis, some of us find our jobs shift a bit, even expand. Teachers, and schools find themselves in such a position during the pandemic. And find that they are a key community hub for their people. Of course, schools have the choice to do nothing, and continue to deliver lessons, maintaining only transactional contact. But they also have the opportunity to be so much more. So many school heads across the world have reported optimism about the future for themselves and their schools as they see a wonderful sense of community return to the school space. This community needs to be nurtured, at least during the disruption.

Schools would be wise to engage School Community Managers sooner rather than later. Those who can engage online, who can maintain and build relationships, those who can manage to keep students and parents positive during this crisis, and offer them a platform to share and do good if they see troubles ahead. To build networks, clubs, connections and platforms across the different sets of people in the school community, so that in times of distance, we can come together, with the school as the centre of good.

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