Want to know how to reopen schools this fall? Ask the teachers-and the students!
At this point, it appears most of America’s schools will begin the school year online rather than in-person. A tragedy for all of us. For the few districts and independent schools that have the opportunity to open, people are scrambling to create systems and schedules that will work to keep families and teachers safe while providing key educational connections. One key player has been missing in many of these conversations. The teachers.
Why include teachers? Teachers are not health experts, no. But they are in the trenches, doing the heavy lifting so to speak of any systemic change that is put into place. Teachers live and breathe students. And students’ habits-which, are more important in a situation like what we find ourselves living in right now.
In fact, teachers are some of the most creative and best problem-solvers in our society. A teacher must pivot and creatively solve a problem multiple times within each hour. All of those courses your children enjoy? That’s because a creative teacher has made the subject interesting. Somehow, some teacher has made multiplication tables interesting. Or the scientific method, interesting. Or the theory of communism, interesting. Only through creativity. I think it goes without saying teachers were the linchpin in the pivot to virtual learning this past spring. Their dedication to thinking differently and solving problems as they arose allowed many schools to claim success in their efforts. Though certainly not ideal for anyone, teachers made the best of the horrible situation by thinking creatively and innovating.
Teachers are the largest stakeholders in the game next to the students. And how many students are being included in conversations? None. Adults would be surprised to learn how many good ideas students have on a daily, no hourly basis. Just watch what they create with Legos or online programming. As for behaviors, students know what will work, what won’t work, and they are very aware of the needs during this pandemic. If I needed the quick answers to the following questions-
How can we keep students socially distant?
How can we make sure everyone keeps their mask and doesn’t lose it?
Where should we place the additional hand washing stations?
How should we direct traffic from one classroom to the next?
How can we still have hundreds of students eating lunch at the same time each day?
What rules should be placed on bathroom use to limit overcrowding?
Who would I ask? A middle schooler.
If we are truly embracing creativity, innovation, and project-based learning in education, this situation is the perfect opportunity to involve students. In fact, a good project would be to give the students 3–4 health guidelines and allow them to create a daily system and schedule themselves. Students are inherently creative, and they ask the question “What if” far more than your average administrator or health expert. They are dreamers. Kids would come up with all kinds of crazy ideas.
What if one of them actually worked?