Remember when the biggest fears of going back to school was whether your classroom was organized or your child had all the right supplies? This year the questions are tougher:
Will returning to school sicken or kill you, your students, their parents or grandparents?
If we don’t return, will our students lose the social interactions, safety, nutrition and learning which they need to grow?
If our goal as educators is to help protect and nurture our children, (and not die), we need to redesign how we engage our students. We have to stop teaching subjects and start helping students solve problems. As we switched to distance learning, some teachers joined together to create fabulous online lessons and projects for their students. Some teachers have found ways to engage their students in social interactions, stress reduction, and ensured that they received food, computers and internet connections. But way too many teachers have simply been trying to simply replicate their old classroom lessons online. And way too many students are simply not showing up.
For years, we have talked about the benefits of student projects which span multiple subjects, of teaching to the whole child, of improving the health of our children because these things help our children thrive. These were great ideas before COVID-19, they are absolutely vital now.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the ultimate breakout room exercise. We have to solve a myriad of complex problems to be able to escape to safety. No need to pay hundreds of dollars to get locked in a room with your team needing to solve problems–we are already in lock down.
Been searching for an authentic learning project for our children and for educators? How’s this one?
How can we improve our health and safety and thrive as learners and problem solvers?
During distance learning, here are steps that can help you and your students thrive.
- Engage students in talking about their needs and wants during the pandemic. What type of services, learning and contacts do they need?
- Create a dialogue and charting for a variety of success factors for students. Nutrition, sleep, exercise, social contacts, volunteering. By focusing on the factors that determine student performance, we will set up students for lifetime health and success. Healthy students and teachers are less likely to catch and transmit COVID-19 and far less likely to die if they do contract it.
- Engage students in learning how to improve the health and learning conditions at their homes. Baltimore’s childhood asthma rate is nearly twice the state average. Learning how to improve the home air quality, how to create a study schedule, and how to create an effective study space can help students succeed.
- Engage students in learning and communicating proper health behaviors to their peers. Students more likely conform to a social norm from their peers than a rule by a school official.
- Share information on social and emotional resources: food, medical services, COVID-19 testing, where those with COVID-19 can go to isolate from their families.
- Create teacher teams to produce the best lessons and the best social/ emotional support for students. Frankly, some teachers are great at presenting material, and some are better at nurturing, guiding and supporting their students. Distance learning enables teachers to work in the roles where they are most successful.
- Engage students in teams to increase social interactions and learning as they study and solve complex problems together.
- Engage students in talent and show and tell performances for their peers.
- Engage students in peer tutoring and knowledge exchange.
- Engage students and experts in health, building engineering and operations, data science, and social policy in understanding and improving factors that influence their health, safety and success. (i.e. technology equity, resources, transportation and health care).
- Collaborate with these same experts and students in developing a plan to reopen schools with safe behaviors and operations. Students would prepare a plan for safe transportation, social distancing, disinfection of touch points, air ventilation and air flow, and alternative outdoor classes when appropriate. Students and teachers would learn how to monitor health and safety factors for their school environment and operations.
As schools reopen, students would monitor the health and safety factors at their schools and collaborate with school officials to offer suggestions and innovations to increase health and safety for students and school staff.
Let me know if you would like some help in doing this.