Normal isn’t what it used to be. COVID-19 has pushed public education, virtual instruction, and the needs of students center stage under an intense spotlight. These elements are under scrutiny from just about every angle, supporter, and detractor all over the country. No matter what your perspective or how you find yourself a stakeholder, one thing is abundantly clear; what we’ve always done isn’t good enough anymore. The system of education needs to evolve.
This isn’t an article debating the minutia of success between this school or that school. It’s not union vs. charter or even public vs. private. The changes we need in education are universal. Legacy pedagogy and the status quo no longer meet the needs of 21st-century students and families. Schools everywhere are filled with dedicated teachers working hard to support students and families each and every day. It’s time to stand up and speak these truths for the betterment of education.
Now is the time to give teachers real support and training.
Every year, teachers sit through professional development geared towards new techniques, shifting priorities, and increasing the capacity and duties as assigned. Old ideas are continuously rebranded, repackaged, and retaught with the same results as before. Traditional educators, all too familiar with brick and mortar planning, support, and assessment, are facing the prospect of unpredictable locations, unknown student needs and supports, and adapting curriculum to virtual models they were not designed or intended for.
Our outdated systems are not yet equipped to meet the needs of all students in all schools, hybrid scenarios, or virtual models. Teachers need training and support to effectively put new ideas and innovative solutions into practice. We can empower teachers to overcome current challenges and troubleshoot any future unknowns.
Now is the time to acknowledge and take care of mental health.
Each and every person deals (or fails to deal) with stress in their own unique way. No matter your school instruction plan, it is more important than ever to maintain healthy habits and stress-relieving strategies.
We all know that a person under stress is less productive. Humans under constant, unmanaged stress are more likely to experience negative health events and or exacerbate existing chronic health conditions. All teachers know: you can’t be there for your students if you’re not there for yourself first. Take a mental health day if you need.
Now is the time to listen to teachers.
Parents, voters, and politicians have always had a strong say in the scope and direction of schools. In mid-April 2020, many educators experienced revelatory and ah-ha moments about current pedagogy. Instantaneously pulling back from in-person instruction highlighted unnecessary and ineffective practices we all unconsciously accepted and taught.
Much of the material and lesson plans designed for face to face teaching were not easily adaptable for virtual instruction. Teachers had to make decisive decisions about what they could feasibly teach and how best to meet students’ needs. Asking teachers about their knowledge and expertise will provide the best evidence on what to change and how to move forward effectively.
Now is the time to rethink standardized testing.
Teachers all over the country lament lost instruction time due to standardized tests, assessments, and test prep. Families opt out of formalized assessments for personal reasons including known inequities and inherent racial biases they promote. Now in 2020, the landscape of education is turbulent and fraught with challenges.
Teachers prepare students for life; the pursuit of happiness and success as adults. In that frame of mind, we need to ask ourselves a few questions. “Do students who test well become happier, more successful people? What if we measured student growth with authentic application of knowledge instead of assessments?” Reevaluating current testing expectations is a student-first idea whose time has come.
Now is the time to give educators a raise.
Yes, it’s been said before, but it is still true. Educators work long hours and traditionally are underpaid. Plus, research shows increased pay for teachers matters. Teachers in 2020 have more responsibilities than ever before. The caring folks who only a few years ago were teaching reading and writing are now navigating shooter drills, social media fallout, and the politicization of classrooms and curriculum alike.
Simply teaching has evolved into the need for a superhuman who has to be a social-emotional counselor, multimedia technological wizard, and now the health and safety enforcer due to COVID-19. In many districts and states, teachers have gone without raises for years. Now, more than ever, we should thank our teachers and pay them in a way that shows just how important they are.
Teachers are more important than ever. As we prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, we should reflect on where we have been as we collectively determine where education must go. Schools need to look to transform education, not simply improve current practice. Education needs to move beyond the status quo and strike forth for uncharted territory. As we say goodbye to old constructs and familiar methods, we will reflect on our accomplishments and failures to prepare for the changes and challenges to come. By evolving our 19th-century mindsets into 21st-century actions, today’s students will create the future they deserve.
Where do you feel education needs to evolve? Let us know in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE Facebook group.