It got me thinking about what causes significant change. How does one get to a monumental shift in something like what happened this year in education?
You need a crisis.
Well … OK … maybe not a crisis, but certainly a stimulus that is much bigger than what you’d normally experience.
By our very nature, we don’t like change — we prefer consistency and predictability. And to have system-wide change like we’ve had this year in education — moving from traditional in-class instruction to an emergency remote learning reality and then to a blended learning model … you need something to literally push you from your comfort zone.
Yup, you need a crisis. A pandemic works nicely.
Here are two other examples of crises that led to massive change:
- Lifelabs: In 2019, a private medical laboratory company in Canada, had an online security breach of client information. It was a huge breach. They’ve now instituted a number of massive changes to their organization including hiring IT security, new firewalls and a host of other measures.
- Deepwater Horizon: In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded and collapsed in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, resulting in the largest single oil spill in history. This 87-day uncontrolled release of crude oil from the sea floor created an unprecedented problem and an environmental disaster. At the time of the incident, no technology or mechanism existed to contain it. The “Capping Stack” that ultimately stopped the flow of oil was developed while the spill was in full force. This technology is now a global standard around the world.
Emergence of talent: A crisis has a way of letting the cream rise to the top. In the midst of a crisis, those with the right skill sets and talent—even if they are not the identified leaders or top performers—have a way of rising to meet the challenge, creating a dynamic that enables the entire team or group to grow closer and work better together.Sometimes the World Needs a Crisis: Turning Challenges into Opportunities – The Brookings Institution (April 10, 2017)
Let’s stick with the COVID crisis for a moment. Almost overnight, it has changed our world — physical distancing, travel restrictions, business closures, health protocols and huge economic disruption .. and of course, then there’s education.
Back in March, we moved suddenly and almost overnight into an Emergency Remote Learning reality. We had approximately 3 weeks to build our district plans — develop dozens of e-resources and virtual training for our staff, mobilize hundreds of computing devices so that students could learn from home, and implement a completely new teaching and learning paradigm.
I’ve never before experienced this degree of educational change in such a short time. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time.
So, what are some things that we’ve already learned so far?
- We learned new communication tools — things like video-conferencing (e.g. MSTeams) and new e-learning and assessment resources.
- We began to meet virtually now instead of in-person. This eliminated travel and increased personal efficiency.
- We learned that some students actually thrive in the remote environment while others had significant struggles. Older students typically did better than younger ones. Academically successful students also typically did better than those who already were not fully engaged in their learning.
So, here we are at the end of this crazy year.
Will “The Pandemic Effect” be permanent? Will the changes that have happened actually ‘stick’?
I’ve grouped my thoughts on this question into three areas:
- THREE OBSERVATIONS
- THREE PROGNOSTICATIONS
- THREE REFLECTIONS
- Kids need schools. They need our schools to connect, to socialize and to learn about a bunch of stuff like diversity and inclusion — to understand what it means to be a community.
- Schools provide that anchor for so much more than the academics. They are places where parents connect with other parents, where food is provided to those in need, where technology is available to connect with the world, and where a reassuring voice can be heard when you need it the most.
- Teachers are critical to a child’s development — their academic growth, their social growth and their emotional growth are all improved when they are physically present with caring adults.
- We will be more ‘open’ to the fact that some of our students actually learn better in a remote format of some kind. We will continue to imagine how we can make this happen for students who thrive in it.
- We will remember that ‘schooling’ isn’t the same as ‘learning’. Learning can happen anywhere at any time.
- Meeting together doesn’t always mean we have to be physically present in the same space. Virtual meetings are here to stay — not for every meeting — but certainly for some of them.
- By surrounding myself with amazing people we can accomplish just about anything we put our minds and hearts towards.
- Taking the road of persistence, patience and inclusion tends to be the one with the most success.
- Being resilient doesn’t mean you’re not completely exhausted.
I want to wish everyone a WONDERFUL upcoming summer of relaxation, rejuvenation and re-connection with nature. Get away from your computers and your cell phones for a bit. Run your toes through the grass and lay awake at night staring at the stars.
You’ve earned it!