“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” This is a famous line from the classic story A Tale of Two Cities. During this time of uncertainty, fear, and wonder I am sure this line holds true. The world as we know it has “shut down”, and there is no certainty as to when it will “reopen.” For many, this is a scary and overwhelming time. For others, it is welcomed and embraced. Either way, it is definitely a new chapter in all of our lives; especially in the realm of education and learning.
This week, the State Board of Education for Idaho stated all schools will be closed until at least April 20th. This date puts our district almost a month away from the last day of school. Not only is this date subject to change, it nearly clears out the month of April for students to be away from the classroom. I cannot think of another time that something like this has ever happened. I am sure that parents and teachers all have mixed feelings over the situation.
In Mountain Home, all schools have transitioned into an online platform to continue education for students. There is a lot of uncertainty in what this might look like, how students and parents will transition, or how successful this “new” style of learning will impact students; especially younger elementary students. This much I can tell you, the Superintendent, administrators, and educators throughout the district want nothing more than to assist, help, and ensure that students are getting everything they need during this time. For many teachers, this will be a learning curve; for others, it will be an easy transition. Either way, EVERY educator cares deeply for their students and wants to see them succeed in whatever environment they are in.
So what will make this time and transition a success for all students and families? The first thought that comes to mind is patience and flexibility. There will be bugs and hiccups in the transition. Everything from technology issues to teacher understanding of online learning. The best thing families and students can do is be patient and flexible, as we are all in this together, and teachers are doing everything they can to ensure their students are not left behind.
The next suggestion that will make this transition a success is understanding. Is online learning what we teachers want to be doing? Absolutely not! There is nothing like seeing students every morning, talking with them on a personal level, watching them grow and succeed in the classroom, and just spending quality time with them. This much I can tell you, my heart hurts knowing I will not be spending my weekdays working, talking, and spending time with my students. To me, my students are my family. With all that being said, families need to be understanding of our situation, our fears and frustrations, and our desire to do well for our students.
Finally, families should keep an open mind in these circumstances. The quote I stated at the beginning is a perfect set up for these times. Students are home. Many students will do great in these circumstances, others will struggle, some might get confused or become frustrated, and some might see this as an extended vacation. Truth is, there are so many opportunities just waiting for students during this time. Everyone always says that schools need to bring back classes like Home Economics or provide real world learning opportunities. Well, here you go. You now have the chance to offer students real world learning at home. Students can learn sewing, gardening, changing the oil, budgeting, or even welding (as I know one of my students is already learning). Allow students arts and craft time. Give them the opportunity to do DIY science experiments that they might be watching on YouTube. Ultimately, this may be an unsettling time for many families, but keep an open mind to the opportunities and possibilities that can be offered to students at home.
We are in this together. We will overcome all challenges and come out stronger than we were. Our students, our children, are watching how we respond during these times. Give them examples of courage, strength, honor, integrity, and love. It may be difficult for many families, but we are all products of our choices. We will forever be defined by the choices we make in our lives, and there is no better time to see who we really are than during times of uncertainty, fear, and doubt. Be people of courage and strength, and be open to the possibilities that afforded to us each and every day.