At the end of The Martian, Matt Damon sits on a bench in a beautiful park, leaving us to decide whether he’s satisfied being back on Earth having survived a near death experience in space, or if he misses it.
Yes it’s been a brutal two years. Yes, we have lost contact with friends, the human connections of social activity, and the ease of travel. I used to travel 4-5 times a year minimum. Since 2020, I’ve travelled twice. Twice! I’ve forgotten even the basics like how to pack for the plane because I’m so obsessed with trying to get the RAT test on time and making sure my flight isn’t being cancelled.
What I see around me as we start sticking our (vaccinated) heads above the ground again, hoping to return to life as it was, is a gigantic missed opportunity. Our industry, like the food, hospitality, health care, and transport industries, was disrupted and accelerated at least 7-10 years. What was an odd exemption for kids in hospitals and the occasional NASA engineer from mission control beamed on a screen to an auditorium full of restless middle schoolers, has now become the norm.
Hybrid, Hyflex, all the things we imagined happening in 2050 when The Jetsons (boomer alert) lifestyle became reality, were catapulted to the present. And it’s not what we imagined, or hoped for.
We have a lot to be thankful for returning to ‘normal’ but also a lot of things that we cannot return to.
I’m concerned that our desire to return to the comforts of routine after two years of crisis management and pandemic fatigue, will rationalize mediocrity. That after so much stress on our schools and teachers, during which all we focused on was getting through the day/week, that once the fog lifts, we will continue to look inwards, our defense mechanisms on auto pilot.
I hope that I am wrong,. I hope that we don’t fall for the seduction of the way things were before. Because, in all honesty, it wasn’t all that great. 20 years into 21st century learning, the actual glaciers are melting faster than we are moving to make education relevant to the times. Getting back to workshops on MYP Cat 2 in Berlin or conferences on AERO standards in Atlanta just isn’t going to cut it.
We all need a month in the Maldives, a grand celebration of reconnection and re-nurturing. That is undeniable. We cannot simply keep Zooming and embracing the dings in the universe caused by Covid. I’m not saying that. We need to hug one another, breathe in the mask free air of a friend filled room the laughter and excitement of traveling and connecting again without social distancing fears or the guilt caused by contact.
But once we taken that breath, we have to keep moving forward, screen time or not. I have taken three takeaways that I hope to move before the retreating waves of change wash over them.
- In person time is more valuable than ever and has to be used more creatively and across disciplines.
- Limit the broadway shows: We are the only profession that does 5-6 live broadway shows a day. We have to embrace the asynchronous model so teachers can THINK and COLLABORATE rather than constantly juggle chain saws to keep learners engaged. Sorry, lower school teachers, this probably doesn’t work below grade 5.
- Community Engagement: We’ve had classes without walls and project based and service learning for years. But rather than a one off week, it has to be more embedded. If we can Zoom in math and English, why can’t we do an arts residency in Istria for two or three weeks while we keep up with “academics.” online? We have to push the limits on community based learning and the how and where of learning now that restrictions are lifting.
- Change the Subjects: I’ve been talking about this one for awhile and have to do a better job putting money where the mouth is. Our subjects are woefully outdated. Science has evolved a little bit and I guess math is math, but the rest are arcane, unimaginative, and need critical redefinition. If I see one more test on the Crusades, I might just need to start one of my own.
I know it’s hard, but once you get your Mojo back this Spring, please don’t become ‘comfortably numb.’ You’ve come too far to leave it all behind.