GUEST POST: Truths Educators will have to accept for Fall 2020

Heather Herstine is the author of this post, and she’s a friend. You’ll learn more about her at the end of the post.

In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic had the entire world in lock down. Perhaps no field was more effected than education. With little notice – in some cases just 48 hours – teachers had to move all of their content online; students were suddenly working from home; and parents became teachers often while simultaneously working their own jobs remotely.

We all adjusted, accepted our new (temporary?) normal, and made the best of it.

Fortunately, there were only weeks left in the school year. At the time, not many had considered that the lock down would last as long as it has. Now, we’re approaching the fall term, and school districts are faced with some difficult questions regarding what education will look like this year.

While no one has a crystal ball, it’s safe to say that it’s going to take a while for life to go back to “normal,” if it ever does. I’m not typically one to accept the phrase “new normal,” but it seems that we’re on the brink of a significant shift in education.

So, here are some truths that anyone involved in the education system (teachers, administrators, parents, and students) will have to accept when it comes to Fall 2020 and beyond.

It’s going to be different

Everything about life is different right now, and it’s probably going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.

Some families might find that online classes have worked well for them and decide to enroll in a cyber/charter school or in their school district’s cyber program – yes, most schools have them! Others might find that the classroom is the only place for their children to be. Still others– by choice or because of district mandates – might experience a new kind of learning through a hybrid or blended model. Regardless of the modality, schooling is going to be very different from what it used to be.

The time is ripe for change, and we need to accept that. We will adjust, and we might just find that the adjustment is better than what existed before!

We have to be flexible

These changes will mean that everyone has to be flexible. Some school districts are offering multiple modalities including remote synchronous learning, traditional face-to-face learning, split scheduling, asynchronous learning, or a combination of any of the above. Some are allowing the parents to choose while others are making the decision for the whole student body. Whatever the situation, parents, teachers, and students will have to accept the changes and be flexible with whatever is required.

What’s more, we have to be prepared for the fact that there could be a quick switch in modality, if the district or other governing bodies recognize a reason to do so.

We have to adapt

Going into this school year without a plan for whatever might come is irresponsible and reckless. As a parent and an educator, I am making multiple plans “just in case.” I know that I have to be prepared for whatever happens, and doing that in advance allows me some peace of mind.

We have to adapt to our new situation and adjust accordingly. It may not be easy, but it is necessary. And again, you just might find that it’s worth it.

We have to accept instructional technologies

The technology we carry around in our pockets has more processing power than the super computers that sent a man to the moon. Most teachers, students, and parents have access to this incredible technology in one way or another. For others, there are programs and grants available to get these students the technology they need. Don’t be afraid of it!

This shift in education will necessitate the use of instructional technologies. This might require professional development for these technologies officially or unofficially. Regardless, we have to accept the tech and be willing to learn it and use it.

We have to be willing to collaborate

Collaboration is a beautiful thing. Most of us strongly dislike group projects because one person does all the work and everyone gets credit. In a true collaborative effort, everyone puts in all they have.

Education has historically been a field where professionals fiercely protect their intellectual property, but that has changed recently with sites like TeachersPayTeachers.com.

I hope that educators from every level can see the benefit of collaboration primarily because so many educators have never had the opportunity to teach anywhere but in a face-to-face classroom. If this is you, listen up! Find your school’s instructional designer. Find a friend who has taught online. Read about online teaching. Get your hands on some of the incredible resources that are out there. You are not in this alone! Instruction in the post-pandemic world will be more efficient and effective if teachers are willing to reach out to those who have experience with instructional design technologies! Anything can be taught online when pedagogy and technology come together.

We will see an explosion in creativity

We have witnessed something that has never been done before, and it’s not over yet. The education system is likely going to experience a lasting change, and it’s going to be the result of some incredible educators who aren’t afraid to try something new.

Teachers are some of the most creative people, and I’m proud to be part of this profession. We are not given nearly the credit we deserve (but that’s a conversation for another day). Teachers will adjust, and they will do it in some of the most creative ways. It remains to be seen how this situation plays out, but you can bet that it’s going to result in some impressively creative content both in how and what is taught.

There will be an increased workload

All this awesomeness isn’t going to come from nowhere. Teachers will have some of the highest workload they’ve ever had. Some teachers will be teaching online, some on-campus, and some will do both at the same time. Planning content for multiple modes of delivery especially if you’ve never done it before is going to be challenging, time-consuming, and at times frustrating.

Administrators will be dealing with new regulations some of which are changing frequently and questions about what’s next. Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t even know the right answers.

Students will also likely experience an increased workload not only because of the time lost at the end of last school year but also because they will likely be learning in new environments. The cognitive load of learning how to manage new devices, new apps, and learn new content might at times be overwhelming.

Parents who are suddenly at-home teachers may also have to learn new content to help their children.

We have to be gracious

Above all, we have to be gracious. We are all dealing with some of the most trying times in our lives. We are separated from family, friends, jobs, hobbies. Life as we knew it is gone, and we’re all feeling a little mentally and emotionally exhausted.

Teachers, be gracious with your students. They might be feeling emotions that they can’t express. Also, be gracious with yourself especially if you find yourself in a new teaching situation. You will get through it, and you will come out of it a better educator if you are willing to accept some of the truths we discussed above.

Parents, don’t be too hard on your students or on your students’ teachers. This is new territory for all of us. And if you find yourself teaching your student at home, practice grace for yourself. Your children will learn more from watching how you respond in a time of crisis than they’ll ever remember about dangling modifiers.

A final word…

Do not try to go at this alone. No one knows what lies ahead, and we are in uncharted territory. Whether you are a teacher, a parent, or both, we’re going to have a accept that we have to educate our students regardless of the situation. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with whatever you need. We’ll get through this together or not at all.

About the Author

Heather Herstine is a doctoral candidate at Robert Morris University, where she is also an adjunct instructor who regularly teaches Communications Skills courses. She is interested in instructional technologies and instructional design for the online classroom. She has an Advanced Graduate Certificate for Online Teaching, a M.Ed. from Slippery Rock University in Secondary English Education and a B.A. from Penn State World Campus focused on Organizational Leadership.

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