Trauma informed education. Social-emotional learning. Empathy based instruction. These are all practices that have increased in prominence as the conversation continues around what education should look like during a pandemic. Indeed, if you were to walk into a school in most parts of BC today, things would likely look quite different. And yet, I would suggest that they don't look quite different enough.
The reality is that many of these differences are more reflective of new provincial health protocols rather than significant shifts in education. In part, I would argue that this is due to our innately human desire to "get back to normal". We crave familiar routines and structures. As such, some educators are struggling to deliver "pre-COVID" content to "post-COVID" students. Many parents are also feeling the pressure to get their children "caught up" as a result of missed time in the classroom. In both scenarios, students are the focus of this increased stress and anxiety.
With the very best of intentions, we are essentially "punishing" students during a pandemic.
By struggling to squeeze the same pre-COVID content into a school day that for the most part is structured significantly different, we are exhausting ourselves. And our students. And it worries me. Because with a somewhat heavy heart, I've come to realize that we're in this for the long haul. Even if a vaccine was to be introduced tomorrow, the impact of the last ten months will permeate our society for years to come. It would be an impossible task to attempt to compensate for all that we have lost.
And so, we need to give ourselves, and those around us, "permission" to let go of some things in order to focus on those elements that are essential to a school community: relationships, connections, curiosity, exploration and a love of learning.
My son was a member of the graduating class of 2020, otherwise known as a "Quaren-Teen". Rather than traveling the world as he had originally planned, he is working full time on an organic vegetable farm. He may or may not return to school at some point. He has no idea what he wants to do in the coming years. And I'm totally ok with that. Because he is still learning. He is still growing. We've both had to let go of our pre-COVID plans and expectations in order to make space for new plans and adjusted expectations.
Learning during a pandemic should look different. And not just because hand sanitizer and masks feature prominently in our schools. But because we have shifted our teaching and learning to address what is truly essential for the success of our students in this new reality.