Since coming back from quarantine, school has changed a lot from what it used to be. Students attend school two to three days a week, and on top of that, some social norms have changed.
Masks are an obvious change. Students are required to wear them to attend school and are permitted to take them off only at lunch or when not inside the building. An undeniable change is how quiet students have become. Rather than trying to get students to quiet down, teachers are having to do the opposite and try getting them to talk. Could it be their mask that makes them quiet? Or, maybe it’s that they’re flat out exhausted from wearing it and they’re conserving energy for when they have to speak.
Classrooms have also changed. Norms that we’ve been so used to for years, and deemed school are completely different. Teachers used to have to stop class in order to quiet a class down; they were scolded for being too rowdy and wasting “precious learning time”. Now students rarely talk in class. Teachers have to stop class in order to try and get their students to participate. Students are silent to the point where when a student cracks a joke or makes a comment it’s encouraged.
Not only are classrooms quieter, the hallways are quieter, too. When you enter the building each day, it’s mostly dead silence. Once you enter your own classroom, it’s as if you forget other classes are going on at the same time. It’s like our halls have become an Old Western ghost town. Perhaps the quiet has made us step back from the daily, noisy chaos of hallway traffic clatter to the point that we notice the dead body in Mrs. Wollersheim’s room. [Actually, it was a mannequin Mrs. Wollersheim used in psychology class for an activity where they were learning about different parts of the brain and how they affect the body].
Do all of these make school more bearable than before, or worse? It would depend on who you ask, but a good balance between now and normality might be the key. With the pandemic currently students are seeking some form of normalcy. Others are benefiting from it, and doing better than they were before. They are able to choose between EVA (Everest Virtual Academy) and 40% in person school. There are more learning opportunities for everyone in the school district right now.
One of the many learning opportunities is the college-like setting we are being exposed to. With no release bells to end each hour teachers are allowed to let students leave when they finish teaching, allowing more hallway time between classes, or even early release from school. With added schedule flexibility, all of the sudden there’s more time, or at least flexibility of time to pick and choose which classes to work on first. It’s a taste of adult life in a sense. It feels structured like a stretchy rubber band; our schedule’s been changed -it’s been stretched and is flexible. It only breaks for those who don’t follow the rules.
But, a downside to all of this is the amount of screen time everyone is being forced to have. We can’t forget about our need to embrace technology, especially during virtual days. For some, it’s annoying and depressing because it’s all they do. They stare at a screen all day and do work, to the point where getting a packet now and again is an exciting thing. For others, gluing oneself to a screen is a benefit, an easier way to learn they are able to get more done and learn more than they were years before.
What will all that screen time lead to? How many of us have become digital addicts for academic survival? What kind of normalcy will this bring in terms of screen time; are snow days now a digital day of asynchronous learning? Sadly they are now. Being pulled into something like music, or visiting a youtube video and the next thing you know you got sucked in…again. How do I get out of here? On top of that at home distractions. During virtual learning how many students have other family, and siblings at home to take care of? Chores they have to get done on top of school work? What about technology issues? Students are all learning in different environments, and for some those are environments they have a hard time learning in.
So what does it come down to? How do we as a district accommodate that? Is it possible? Learning opportunities and learning stresses have all come with the pandemic. Between students and teachers, homelives, work life, balancing schedules, screen breaks, families, etc. How is it possible to give everyone equal learning and teaching possibilities? Where’s the playbook for how this is supposed to go? How are we supposed to predict how this will affect the future of education? The truth is we can’t. We can guess, we can hope, but we cannot control the situation for everyone. Right now we can focus on the little things; the positives that have come with the pandemic although it might seem like there’s none.
School is definitely different from what it was last year. But, with that there are many positives that have come with it. We should slow down and recognize those things. Take a break from noticing all the negatives and appreciating those positives. Those positives are different for everybody, but definitely make an impact even without realizing it.