For some students, online learning has lasted for a year or longer. Some teachers have likewise been making magic in front of a computer screen instead of a class full of students. So, the return to fulltime in-person instruction is an exciting moment, but we cannot for one minute think that it will be easy for anyone.
Isolation Makes Human Contact More Stressful
Have you seen the film Cast Away? After 4 years on an island, when the character portrayed by Tom Hanks was finally thrust back into society, it was an overwhelming experience. While the situations may not be comparable, it’s likely that both educators and students will struggle to adjust when being thrust back into the classroom. Districts should consider having supports in place for their employees as well as strong SEL systems for students. Ted Gennerman, director of student services, and Emilie Tregellas, school psychologist for the Oak Creek-Franklin Joint School District in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, wrote an exceptional guide for incorporating SEL to support students and improve student behavior.
Beware the Assessment Drive
We realize that there will be a push to complete a lot of assessments when students return to the classroom full time, in order to determine how far behind – or how far ahead – they are from the standard grade level. While we’d prefer to do away with grade levels altogether and simply teach students at their own pace and in ways that motivate them to learn more and love learning more, we urge districts to complete assessments not to hold students back from their grade level but to identify who needs the most support to catch up.
Forward Progress Must Continue
Even as we return to traditional classroom settings, we can bring what we’ve learned about accelerating and individualizing education into the classroom – and we can bring the technology that helped us achieve it, too. Just as corporations are recognizing the benefit of continuing to support a remote workforce, schools are recognizing the benefit of continuing to use the learning systems and technology they implemented during the height of the pandemic.
Technology Improves Education
Hybrid learning does not have to end when schools open. Consider all of the kids sent to school sick because of attendance requirements who could continue to participate in class from home in a hybrid learning environment. Extending this further, consider the capacity for schools in different areas of the country or world that could collaborate on learning through technology. A recent study, “Learning and instruction in the hybrid virtual classroom: An investigation of students’ engagement and the effect of quizzes,” revealed that the ability for students to relate to their peers, as well as their intrinsic motivation, improved when multiple screens and collaborative technology were in place.
As school districts resume full-time, in-person classes, the last thing we want to see happen is that back-to-school means returning to educating students in the same way we did prior to the pandemic. We need to embrace everything we’ve learned during the pandemic, maintain all of the technology and innovation we’ve incorporated, and continue pushing forward.