By Adam Majsay, Deputy Principal (Teaching & Learning) K-12, Emanuel School firstname.lastname@example.org
Thirty days hath September,
April, June and November;
All the rest have thirty-one,
Except March which has 8000.
It is indeed fortunate that March this year had thousands more days than in years gone by, as educators across the world came to grips, almost overnight, with the largest and most all-encompassing change to the way schools function in living memory.
As the impact of novel coronavirus reverberated across the world as a unifying, global experience, schools and the learners and teachers within them have shared an educational event which may forever change the way we do things. This universal experience created a sense of common purpose in education as never before, as schools, systems, teachers, students and their families moved rapidly to ensure that, regardless of the location of learners and educators, learning could continue, uninterrupted and uncompromised.
Necessity has truly been the mother of invention.
Our teachers have embraced new ways of guiding students’ learning with confidence and courage. Moving from face-to-face instruction to delivering learning online, from circulating through the classroom to check in on student understanding to building connections via video conference, and from same-time instruction to increasingly self-paced learning, our teachers have led the charge towards shifts in education, which, without the urgency of a global pandemic, may have otherwise seemed impossible or unachievable. Anecdotally, digital learning leaders have remarked that schools have realised ten years of technological innovation in ten weeks. So much has changed, so quickly, and our communities have adapted to these changes with great agility.
Guiding an online meetup of school leaders from across the globe last week, Dr Simon Breakspear, an esteemed researcher, advisor and speaker on educational leadership, policy and change, encouraged educators to acknowledge the myriad new ways of being that schools have adopted during this time of great change. There is much to be celebrated about the flexibility and resilience with which school communities faced the challenges before us. Breakspear warns, though, that we must actively avoid a ‘snapback’ to “our ‘defaults’ and ingrained habits of practice”. The light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel grows brighter, with schools welcoming back students and staff for face-to-face learning. With this return to campus, we have a brief window of opportunity before the comfort and familiarity of our classrooms allow us to ease back into the tried and tested. Schools must take this time to reflect on what we have learned about how learning could be, and to consider how best to capture the many positive new ways of working that have emerged during this time.
Azad Oommen, Founder of Global School Leaders, reflecting on the experience of these past months, shared that teachers have been “like actors in a play where the story, the script and costumes have all changed mid-performance, and they are on stage improvising to adjust to their new role”. Now educators have had a chance to change the script, to try on some new costumes and to play a few different roles, I hope that the thrill of discovery in learning and teaching will see our schools continue to innovate and adapt. As we come back to our classrooms after such a long time away, and as we reflect on and honour the work that we have all done to keep learning alive, it is important we recognise that, as professionals, as educators, we are capable of extraordinary things.
Our schools must simply never be the same again.