We are struggling. We are grappling with all sorts of obstacles at the moment. But these obstacles are temporary and soon, with a wave of a magic wand (when the governments decide it is time to open the schools again), they will be removed. We will be able to return to our classrooms and things will get back to normal. Or will they?
I often catch myself picturing the moment when I stand in front of my classes for the very first time after this is all over. What will I say, what will I do and what will I ask my students to do first? Asking them ‘How have you been? would seem proper but somewhat awkward too. Diving right in into the course matter without further ado would seem a bit insensitive. Telling them to open their book on page XYZ would seem rather strange. I feel like we will all need some time to adjust and settle in. But how shall we go about it? How to make our reunion feel smooth and genuine but not overwhelming?
Let’s be honest, it’s not like seeing each other again after the summer holidays. Things won’t be the same given the fact that by the time we meet face to face again, our students will have changed and so will we, the teachers. It’s a bit like the lost generation kind of feeling. Despite the happiness that the ‘war’ is over, feelings of confusion and aimlessness will probably be around for a bit. Luckily and ironically, everybody will feel a bit lost, at least for a while. It’s not just a handful of survivors reuniting with those who have no idea what life on the front is like. We will all be survivors, in some way. But we will also be losers because regardless of the victory, we will have lost some of our beliefs – beliefs in the current situation in politics, economy and most importantly, education.
At the moment, the ministers and administrators advise us to be compassionate. The students are facing all sorts of problems so we should not add more stress to that. We should take into consideration the inequality – not all students have the same conditions for learning and working in the online environment. We should offer a plethora of engaging tasks for students to choose from. Students should take responsibility for their own learning and they should be able to work at their own pace. We should not grade their work because grading is terribly unfair these days. Most importantly, we should not give bad marks to enforce students’ participation. We should merely motivate, encourage and provide formative feedback in order to modify teaching and learning activities to improve student attainment.
But aren’t the above some of the fundamental principles of any successful education system – not just the one during a pandemic? So, will we go back to ‘normal’ again after the virus is gone? Will we resume grading, adding stress and assigning compulsory tasks? Will only the fast finishers, the brightest, the most resilient and the ones with the best resources and equipment lead the classroom again? Or will we keep some of the wisdom we have acquired during the lockdown and actually try to apply it at last?