Covid, they said, brought on an education crisis. The crisis was already upon us. We saw it and wrote about it. Covid lockdowns made it more visible, brought it closer to home. We could not ignore the learning lags anymore, because everyone lagged now.
And as everyone lagged, we geared up to move it up a bit. This is the good news. The good news is that we are going to look at doing things better now. Differently now. No?
We can, you know. So much has happened during the past three years. School, college and university teachers learnt to teach online. Students learnt that they actually wanted school. Parents figured out that easier mornings were all very well but having the kids around all the time wasn’t always that great. And that teaching was a specialised profession – one does a lot more than read a text or speak out an explanation.
Best of all, we learnt that learning isn’t always done only one way. The school box is useful, but other ways make things easier for all of us, when combined.
There is a lot more to learn about this – sure. Because we got a bunch of things wrong too. Sometimes we asked teachers to be remote teaching and teach a physical class at the same time. Not quite going to work – because in class pedagogy and digital pedagogies are a bit – different. (we are writing books about this, promise). We messed up a bit when we assumed students knew how to keep themselves motivated. They cannot, not yet, because we have always believed imposing discipline via rules. We never taught them self efficacy. We messed up again when we assumed the world would go back to ‘normal’.
Normal shifts. The normal has shifted. We cannot go back to the past. We may want the comforts of familiarity, the confidence of knowing what we are doing, the ease of repeating what we have practised so many times, but that cannot happen. We cannot step into the same river twice, those waters have flowed through. We will step in again, but this is a new wave. Our students have changed. Our capacities have changed. The needs of the world have changed. We must recast.
Teachers have been complaining that students cheat. That they do not behave as they did in the past. In this new world, we need to look harder to find better ways to assess them so that we can acknowledge their new realities. Their need to be competent, but also their need to co-operate being stronger than their need to compete. And yet be recognised as individuals. Our world of competition has created greed, strife, loneliness and so much worse. This generation recognises it.
The world of school lockdowns tore us apart, but it also taught us the lessons of being together in different ways. We need to figure out new ways to make it work for us and our students. Our education systems need to find ways that reflect the new values. These will define the new normal.
(Oh, and why did I write out this reflection? It all started with this prime time TV discussion about falling education levels after the covid lockdowns of schools) Here is the link: