If the American public undervalued the education system prior to COVID-19, now, the fundamental role schools play in society is undeniable. As we navigate this pandemic, whether virtual or hybrid, we cannot get stuck in a survival and scarcity mindset. Looking to a world beyond this pandemic is vital in order to keep us moving forward. Here are my hopes for the American public education system in a post-COVID world.
I hope school funding will be a priority
Schools are much more than a place to learn the curriculum. Often, school provides the only social-emotional support a student may receive. School offers that meal, in many cases two meals, which separates a content stomach from hunger. Schools are the spaces that keep our children safe while parents work. Our education system is the foundation of our society. And the disparities in that reality are heartbreaking. If we continue to fund schools based on the zip code the building sits, the systemic injustices faced by our students will continue. Property taxes should not be the basis for how much money a school receives. Education is a fundamental prescription to the ails of this nation; fund it like you would a national security crisis.
I hope our aging school buildings get attention
Can we take a minute and think about why, in the richest country in the world, we send our students to buildings that do not have proper ventilation, even when there isn’t a pandemic? In a post-COVID world, proper air quality is not reserved for the select few but for the masses. At the very minimum, we should all be guaranteed the right to breathe.
I hope social-emotional learning is prioritized
In a post-COVID world, not only are academics prioritized but so is the emotional well-being of students. We will no longer teach to the test because we understand when calamity strikes, you’re not necessarily thinking about the trigonometry you learned in class. What you will need are life skills necessary to help cope with the stress which comes with the upheaval life is bound to bring. Keep in mind, we are yet to understand the long-term physical, emotional, and societal impact this pandemic will have on our nation … for years to come.
Social-emotional coping skills are now more important than ever, as we experience collective heightened anxiety and depression. In a post-COVID world, mental health resources are readily available to students and the adults who care for them.
Does that mean in a post-COVID world, academics are obsolete? Absolutely not! But as educators and leaders in the field, can we agree the summer slide is now the COVID-19 slide, and we should plan accordingly? If students are not emotionally well, they will not be able to learn. Loving, supporting, and caring for our students should be the priority through this pandemic and beyond.
I hope outdated curriculum gets the ax
Our students have access to information and media that is beyond our comprehension. They find themselves bombarded with media constantly, and the curriculum offered needs to resonate. Do they need the absolutely necessary skills of critical reading, writing, and speaking? Absolutely. Will we get there by dry textbook-driven curriculum? No. Particularly when students do not see the content as relevant.
And just as we are teaching kids the basics, let’s make sure they have access to financial literacy, debate, audio journalism, and entrepreneurial studies. They are moving into an increasingly fluid job market where innovative skills will be a necessary tool for survival. It is no longer a luxury to be creative. And do we really want to continue in a system that deems creativity as a fringe element?
I hope educators are respected and valued
Teachers in the spring of 2020 were revered as individuals who were able to keep the learning going, as best as possible. That lasted until talks about reopening occurred. All of a sudden, teachers were labeled as lazy or selfish for worrying about their lives and the lives of their families. In a post-COVID world, teachers won’t have to strike for better pay and working conditions. Society will treat them with respect and not indignity. People will remember that we were caring for our kids before the pandemic.
As a society, we have come to understand that the person on the other side of the screen has worked endlessly in putting together lessons that work online. And, remember, teachers are human too. Many may actually get nervous before a Zoom too. The lesson here: teachers do this all the time. They push through their anxiety and fear to do what they love, teach. Educators pour their hearts into a career that is often thankless. In a post-COVID world, American educators will be better paid, our schools will be better resourced, and our students will know they are cared for and loved. In fact, what else would the wealthiest country in the world prioritize other than education since it is the heartbeat of this nation?
What are your hopes for a post-COVID world? Share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group!