#SELChat: A World of Possibilities
Like you, I have been weathering the pandemic watching the world on my screens…TV, computer, and phone. I hear the latest updates from government officials about the stay-at-home orders and the concerns from healthcare workers about the lack of supplies. I view the struggles of working moms posting on Facebook about how to balance their many duties now that everyone in the family is in the same space 24/7. I listen to the stories of friends and family members on the phone as we ride out this storm #AloneTogether.
This is not easy. My heart breaks for the sickness, death, financial stress, trauma, and uncertainty that we are all facing. Although I am working non-stop to support kids, families, and educators in new ways, there are moments when I feel lost and overwhelmed. I walk to the window in my living room and look out at the green grass, budding trees, and daffodils. Listening to the birds singing more heartily than ever before, I wonder at the dichotomy of this season. Death and life. Heartache and hope.
I cry…and pray…for the children and their families. “Give them clothes to wear, food to eat, a safe place to live, and people who love them.”
Although districts across the country are scrambling to create education plans, what is emerging is the inequity of it all. For the students who have access to wi-fi and devices, their learning continues, almost without interruption, if their teachers understand blended learning. There are other students who do not have access, in both urban and rural areas, to broadband, devices, or support. More urgently, millions of students are going without the regular breakfasts and lunches they received at school.
At this time, we must put Maslow before Bloom and care for the essential needs of our children. Are they being fed? Are they safe at home? Are their emotional needs being met during this time when our world has been turned upside-down?
If the answer to these questions is “no”, then how do we provide food, relief, support, and care for them and their families in the age of social distancing and beyond?
I wonder what education will look like on the other side of this pandemic. I don’t believe we can go back to business as usual. Instead, we must begin to imagine a world of possibilities.
According to the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards, homeschooling is not a 7-hour day. Instead, elementary students study for 1-2 hours/day, middle school students for 2-3 hours/day, and high schoolers for 3-4 hours/day.
Given this difference in instructional time, students have time to be children – to play outside, to explore areas of interest, to read books, to create projects – to enjoy childhood and not face the fears of bullying and school shootings.
So what if we redesign school during this reset? What if parents can choose to work from home and students can choose to learn from home? And what if the educational system comes around the family to provide support rather than demanding the family come around the school to beg for support? What if we truly put children first? Imagine the benefits for families, society, and our planet.
I envision the school building being transformed into a community hub serving meals, providing devices and tech support, offering opportunities for connection according to needs and interests, supplying mental health and behavioral services – expanding options but not requiring children or teachers to be confined to a building.
I know this way of thinking is a stretch beyond what has been familiar. But let’s think outside the box. Is the institution necessary? Must the hours be regulated? If we equip families with wi-fi and devices, can we increase the learning opportunities for students and the adults in their household while encouraging stronger family relationships and better overall health and wellness?
Yes, I know that some jobs require family members to be onsite and childcare is needed. But what if we call that Family Support instead of childcare? And what if we offer Family Support to shifts 24/7 rather than just the traditional 8 am – 3 pm school day?
Technology unlocks the door of opportunity for learning, not just for students but for us all.
• Consolidated services – Providing support to the family within their own community in order to create a sense of belonging and care. Services include physical health, mental health, wellness, meals, technology and more.
• Mentoring – Offering middle school and high school students the opportunity for on-the-job training and real-life mentorship in areas of interest to them. Demonstrating the direct connection between education and career.
• Ongoing Professional Development – Strengthening our educators to serve children and families in new ways by offering round-the-clock learning opportunities and coaching.
Yes, some may say…these efforts are already in place. Perhaps, they are. The question is are we serving the needs of children and families or are we serving a system? May this unexpected push into a more simplified lifestyle cause us to #ComeTogether….in community.