My hope is that we seek to understand what exactly the new normal is like for students.
For at least some part of the day, educators had some ability to shape or influence the normal operations of child's day. Nearly all of those influences are out the window right now. So, making some attempt to understand what constitutes "normal" for a child is an important part of forming empathy when creating learning designs.
I just recently started an attempt to better understand the life of one of our high school students through a quick survey. Here is some of the data. I am now offering this data to teachers to help them better understand their students. It's not nearly enough. Some of the things I wanted to ask sort of feels off-limits coming from a district-level voice like my own. I believe that some kids are essentially the primary caregiver of younger siblings during the day. Other kids are working some of those "essential" jobs that don't pay very well (like grocery stores).
Our own teachers are also trying to figure out their own normal. They have some things going for them, to be sure. They're college-educated,smart, and generally able to advocate for themselves. However, they're in a radically different environment. Some can't handle the tech. Others are attempting to care of little ones AND teach at the same time. I know they're feeling the stress.
We're simply not equipped to do this extremely well (yet?). So... short answer to your "how" question? With empathy. That's the only way. 🙂
@robertslearns I appreciate the dilemma. I am not even sure we can call this a "new normal". It takes time to normalize anything. I am wondering about what core values we need to anchor any question of normalizing with. For example, one core value you express here is that we need to normalize new ways to address the inequities in the system. What would that look like? Since it is a much larger question than what exists in schools, what are the actions from the school perspective that can serve as a catalytic engine for other parts of the system? What are people discovering in their school communities about these questions of inequity? How do we tap into other perspectives so that empathy is not just sympathizing with the other but actually learning enough about the experience to find solutions that are actionable at a local level and can also have influence in the larger systems?
Part of the new normal is uncertainty. There is inequity in access. Some of our students do not have internet or devices to use for online learning. My district is getting hot spots for our families when we learn this.
Families are experiencing trauma as family members fall ill, parents lose their jobs, there is food insecurity. And the previous poster mentioned that we have kids serving as care providers for their siblings while parents may be working. Some of our kids are really struggling with anxiety and isolation. Some of our teachers are, as well. Our news is bombarding us with new worries every day.
It's so difficult to predict what will happen in a week, a month, a year. The only thing that is predictable is unpredictability.
More than anything, we have to focus on helping our students and teachers with emotional and mental health to get through this.
Will we struggle when kids return to school to get them caught up? Absolutely. But we must not lose sight of the fact that our new normal may never be like the old normal again. There is a grief process associated with all that we have lost and fear about the uncertain future. But there is also hope when we see and hear stories of people becoming servant leaders and supporting others.
My hope is that we use this time to pull together and come back stronger and less divided as a Nation. Our kids are living history right now.
Melanie I. Bloom
Thank you for the thoughtful comment that focuses on our learners and their families and how we continue to connect with them. Providing them space to grieve also means that we have to have compassion in our policies, practices, and pacing whether we are still working remotely or back in a school setting.
You are saying clearly and openly what we are all feeling. I appreciate your pointing out the POV of families, learners, and professionals. The other variable is time. It is not clear how long the situation will continue, but that, too, will evolve. Yes, you are right, it is an opportunity as well. There will be a whole new series of situations. You bring realism couple with constructive hope in your post.
I love what you are saying about looking at policies, practices and pacing with a compassionate lens. Mind blown. This is what our schools need to be doing right now. What might it look like?
Melanie I. Bloom
Thank you for your kind words. Yes, time. It works against us when we are pushing for achievement on standardized tests. But when those tests are eliminated temporarily, there is a freedom to meet kids where they are and personalize learning. I hope that this is a time where we revolutionize what we call school and that it will be much more responsive to the needs of our students.
Melanie I. Bloom
@mibloom Teachers are truly experiencing grief, especially when they learned that schools would not reopen this year, which was announced at different times in different states. The realization that there would be no closure and end of year traditions with students has been difficult for everyone. As with stages of grief, and the constant uncertainty that this crisis has created, teachers may need some time before they are ready to re-imagine school. Emotions and healing must be considered before teachers will be ready to embrace a new normal. It won't take long, but being empathetic about what has happened is important. Input from educators will be essential in creating the new normal so that change is created with them rather than done to them. The narrative and planning around creating a new normal will be important.
Gov. Cuomo held his press briefing in NY today, and in a matter-of-fact way, the governor discussed the steps that have been taken to move to "distance" learning, briefly thanking schools and teachers for their work, and he then discussed the ways school would need to change to improve and re-imagine education. He discussed working with the Bills & Melinda Gates foundation, and the fact that it was time to improve education. The discussion then moved back to opening the economy and political bickering. Many teachers had just learned that their schools would not reopen, emotions were heavy knowing they would not see their students again, and the call for change to improve was not well received.
Messaging matters. Perception is reality, and many teachers are fragile and distrustful of the "outside" experts who will swoop in to change and improve education. The last decade's focus on teacher accountability and high stakes testing has not served schools, and these changes were done "to" schools, not necessarily with them. Teachers and administrators must be a part of imagining change that can happen with our schools, and it is important for their voices to be a part of the process. Einstein told us that in the middle of difficulty lies opportunity, and opportunity should feel promising!
Thank you for the forum to hear those voices!