Whilst on lockdown.. Hail and praise be to all Educators!
No one would have ever believed that in 2020 we would be globally fighting an invisible enemy that would bring schools as we know them to a standstill and would force us to come together and really bring 21st century thinking skills to life. As an educator, I have been part of a school of thought that was making noise about the need to act and stop talking about changing our educational space. Before I knew what had happened, it had happened. I am the first to raise my hand and say that I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was and I was still going about my business visiting schools, operating in 20th century mode. Now all that has changed of course, forcing me to go back to the original thoughts of differentiating between education, teaching and learning and schools.
There has been an automatic synergy between these concepts for the longest time, but the reality today is that we are now forced to think differently in international and national education, and accept that how we run schools (‘an institution (physical) at which instruction is given’..Oxford) is not sustainable and really relevant to our current lives.
Enter virtual education. Praise be to all school leaders and teachers who were able to organise themselves as everyone reacted to the pandemic that was forcing us to stay at home and operate differently for our own safety. Teachers, parents and children have had the opportunity to continue teaching and learning through whatever gadgets and means they have at home and were forced to use most elements of the 21st century skills such as: Learning and Innovation; Digital Literacy and Career and Life. But the key words here,no matter our age, are that we were all forced to learn together and act immediately to ensure that learning was continuing.
And lessons for school leaders? You have been forced to be fast thinking and visionary, flexible and trusting of your teaching staff and to believe that most if not all your teachers want the best for their students. Virtual school communities should be about learning and output and not what you can see. It should be about space to make mistakes and to try again. It should be about celebrating small successes and not looking to point out failures because right now, no one is failing and everyone is trying to do the best they can with what they have. What happened to the Growth Mindset? We are all required to be creative, think out of the box and on our feet, carry on living, and try and explain to ourselves first, what we think is happening, and then to make a serious effort to understand it and the most difficult is to explain it to those we are leading in a way that it makes sense, without showing our fears and insecurities. While all this is happening, we also have to consider the wellbeing of ourselves and our families. International educators are spread all over the world, far away from their families and holding on to dear life to the school family that they have and can only be in touch with virtually. This is probably the toughest challenge for our school leaders on the ground as you are required to show your leadership not only to your teachers, but to the students, parents, board of governors and your non teaching staff as they all look to you for answers you probably don’t have yet, especially about next steps and the future. You as the school leaders need to stand strong with your leadership team to ensure calm, continuity and trust. You need to show strength and commitment and most importantly support and honesty at this time. You have taken the baton to show respect, authenticity, empathy, care and be eloquent communicators at this time.
How will we survive this onslaught into what we thought we knew about education? The answer is we don’t really know because as we were forced to react and put contingency plans in place, we don’t know how long it will last and if we will be opening our physical schools or not in the fall of 2020.
But the most important questions to ask ourselves are: how relevant was/is our education yesterday, today and tomorrow? What do we really mean when we talk about education? What do we want to achieve and how formal and structured does it have to be? Are we assessing learning in the best possible way, or are we still confined to assessing learning in more traditional ways?. After our present experience, how will we collaborate as a global society to educate our students in more meaningful and practical ways to truly prepare them for a tomorrow that is not guaranteed and most importantly, unknown? What will have changed when we think of education when we return to our school buildings?
Hail and Praise be to all educators!!