In late March 2020, Covid-19 sent New Zealand into full lockdown. Of course this has been the case across the globe, with us looking to each other to try to discover the best approach. It was unlike anything we had ever experienced, and while we were on a rollercoaster of emotions, most of us sprung into combat mode. Combat the disease, and combat any feelings of anxiety and angst by filling our days with online activities. Teachers fell squarely into this flurry of activity. The new normal they were calling it.
Towards the end of lockdown.1 Trevor and I were discussing this new normal and what schools would do to plan ahead. We started brewing an idea of a more flexible approach to education. I was so fired up by this budding conversation that I got home and compiled the following proposal.
In May we returned to school, knowing that times were tough for many of our students and their families.
I kept wondering how I could help, how could we band together to support all students. Then I got the opportunity to present an online workshop for the ADE Festival of Learning, and I thought I’d share this proposal. Two important points were raised during the discussion.
- Imagine what a point of difference a school would have if they could offer a flexible online programme at enrolment. This idea could help in a multitude of situations. For example, rural students who could benefit from a reduced week; anxious students who have become disengaged due to the increase in fear around the pandemic; students who have simply fallen behind with their school commitments; alternative students for whom school has traditionally been a mismatch; students with needs that traditional teaching is not fulfilling.
- The other point raised was that it is all good and well to offer online learning, but what about sport, PE, bands, drama, dance groups. My reply was that, if lockdown does not prevent face-to-face contact, students would still be encouraged to participate in these activities. When lockdown prevents these activities, as we are currently experiencing, then it is again over to the parents to encourage fitness and physical activity.
This video is a reduced version of the Apple Education Festival of Learning workshop that I hosted.
So here we are in lockdown.2 in Auckland, with the fear that students might be losing their momentum and their commitment to reaching their academic targets. Some students can ride this Covid rollercoaster, and come out stronger on the other side. But what about those students for whom the disruption has become a hurdle that they can’t overcome? Wouldn’t we be serving them better by offering them some flexibility in their learning? Personalised education to maximise learning. Adapting to their needs so that schooling is truly fit for purpose. What I propose is that we initially address their literacy and numeracy needs. Then we look at developing their creativity and finally address their specialist subjects.
It is not ideal, but nor is this new normal. And if it is the new normal and unprecedented times prevail, best we plan for and adapt to the world as it is now.