Change is the end result of all true learning.Leo Buscaglia
We are witnessing the massive influence that disruptions from work and employment are having on our families, friends, and neighbours. But recent global research is showing that long-term school closures due to COVID-19 are (and continue to have) a massive impact on our kids that go beyond learning. The adverse effects can include implications like food insecurity or loss of access to health services that can be potentially harmful for students. As educators, we actually play a significant role that reaches beyond the classroom into children’s lives. And many of us have concerns about the effects of COVID-19 on some of our students and their families.
“Children who don‘t have good social supports at home or who have mental health conditions that their school is helping to manage, need to be back in school. The risk of being out of school is that their home stability and mental health decompensate on them. In the long-term if children aren‘t given the education they need to succeed in life, it can impact them for the rest of their lives and it can even be generational,” explains Dr. Trevor Corneil, Medical Lead in the Office of the British Columbia Provincial Health Office.
Scary. True. And now what?
Upon deeper rumination, I have recognized that the last four weeks of this month (July) have been truly exceptional. Exceptional in how I have spent a great deal more time related to professional thinking and reflection. A commitment to thinking about larger scale influences and their impacts on learning and formal education as a result of our universal connection that had been boldly highlighted in the wake of the current global pandemic.
Since beginning my summer break, my mind-space has worried less about the distractions of planning and organizing for the coming fall, and become more consumed with repeated inklings of:
How are my families doing? How are my students? What are they feeling?
What is it exactly that am I planning for the fall? What does that look like for my students?
What are the expectations, fears, and concerns that students and their parents hold for the upcoming school year?
What am I going to prioritize and keep front and centre when the learning environment shifts for all of us? How will I hold space both in the classroom and from behind a screen for each individual student?
What are/were the most effective elements that we have learned from the return to in-school learning in June that could be brought forward in preparation for the upcoming fall?
How do I help the most vulnerable of my students? What does a supportive relationship look like with students in an era of uncertainty?
Education the mind without education the heart is no education at all.Aristotle
While the OECD report offers inclusive codifications to “prevent students from disengaging from learning during school closures”, a deep long-lasting commitment from all educational stakeholders within our province (which is well, everyone) will be indispensable. Truth be told, these are, at best, grand ideas, and at worst, opportunities that we collectively fail to adopt. And collectively, we must, too, recognize that the situation for many of our most vulnerable learners may get worse before it gets better.