How to change post pandemic schools

Published on Spring 2020. The entire world is trying to solve a similar issue – school return to the ‘normal’ after the pandemic. Distant learning has been the form of teaching number one around the globe in recent months, but as the virus is spreading less and the situation is slowly changing, school’s gates are opening. What the mainstream education should learn from this extraordinary opportunity? Why is so important to gain the maximum from the momentum of today?

In most places, teachers experienced a change of student’s attitude towards learning. Learners solely located at home had the freedom to choose when they want to do their work, and they had the chance to do that by their own pace. Many of them encountered this phenomenon for the first time.

Our scholars rely on instructions and very often tight rules imposed by schools and regulations. It has some good and obvious reasons, but it also takes a vast portion of freedom from all of us. Moreover, lessons organised in timetables and the immense amount of topics which we need to cover makes everything even worst. Fortunately, most of the obstacles are only in our heads. Traditional views and habits locked down our ability to think out of the box and imagine different ways how to improve our schools.

Let’s open our minds up and imagine how our schools could look like if we would adopt some of the experience, which we live now. School would become less rigid. Time would be scheduled less tight and mainly as an offer or invitation for students to attend lectures. There would be goals for each person, and each person would be responsible for their accomplishment. Tutors would provide help and support to achieve the best for struggling students or those who feel lost. They will have the time for that because they don’t need to test people, mark papers and collect grades. The main tasks for our teachers would be talking to students, giving them feedback and navigating them if they need to. They would not judge or make assumptions.

All members of staff, or even parents, might be invited to create a lesson or learning session. It would just need to be reported and planed during staff meetings and advertised to students. As long as the lesson would clearly state goals and outcomes, and our pupils would see the purpose of the topic for their learning journey, they would most likely come and enjoy the time. I know, they would even demand more time and extra tasks.

Our pleasant school would even go further because the student-to-student lessons would be part of our curriculum as well. Students would be able to announce their events and invite other people at meetings which will be held twice in a week. That would be the place where everyone could have a real impact and own voice. Also, the time where young people engage, learn responsibility, and the importance of actions for life in the community.

It seems to be a bit exaggerated. It is hard to imagine even in the wildest dreams how this mess would work. I understand. But, what would happen if we adopt only some of the aspects? What if, we make just one ‘freedom’ day in a week. Kids would come to school and would be able to choose what they wish to do. Teachers would be prepared for their lessons in case someone shows up, but if pupils would rather spend their time by themselves or play games, do some sport, it would be alright. No judgement, remember.

What if, we dilute this experiment even more, and we would stick with the demands of curriculum and plans. In this case, we could give everyone instructions at a morning meeting. The topics, goals and expectation in each subject scheduled on the timetable for that day and that’s it. Nothing else would teachers do. The rest of the day would be in the hands of our kids. Teachers would be helping students, if they ask, or in case of troubles, but the aim would be to provide just a support and guidance. To find out when and where to do the work will be up to pupils.

Breaks and the lesson time can remain because it will provide structure and a sense of time. The day concludes by another meeting where everyone would have an opportunity to say what they think, how they feel and what was their results. No one needs to ask for that, no one needs to talk, if he or she does not want to. It is only essential to have the chance to do so.

Probably everyone can see the pitfalls in the organisation. But despite this fact, the ‘concentrated day’ of freedom would be beneficial to all. Kids would realise how to deal with their stuff. Teachers would get hands free and see their students in a different perspective. Finally, for school, because pupils would enjoy their time together with friends and adults in the community.

It is necessary to say that all of that, to some extent, exists in the real world. Teachers in some schools experience and see these astonishing and fulfilling pedagogical wonders every day. Still, what about the others? Fortunately, as many teachers gained experience in recent days, there is no need to do too much and everyone, in every school, can have the same luck. It only needs to make the first step.

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