For nearly the entirety of last year and a good part of the year before, the school community found themselves learning online — some vowed to never involve themselves with this again. It would be insensitive to ignore the fact that many struggled with isolation and lack of motivation while in school during the peak of a pandemic.
Though these challenges may tempt us to ignore the daily routines that were altered to create a safer, healthier environment, it is incredibly important to acknowledge that there were plenty of changes that we could genuinely benefit from in schools across the nation.
COVID-19 offers lessons about everything from the value of human connection to health and safety in public spaces. To disregard entirely the struggles that students faced in 2020 is to refuse to apply lessons that could improve our general quality of life within the school system.
Many have been eager to jump back into everyday “normalities” taken away during the societal panic that arose during the pandemic. Truly, no one can be blamed for this eagerness; but what was lost throughout was the desire to improve and learn.
There were problems before the COVID-19 shutdown that we didn’t have solutions for. If we’re willing to change, the pandemic can offer new ways of life that are different, but aren’t entirely bad.
Online schooling, for example, opened up a platform where some students found and used their voice for the first time. For them, virtual classes were an environment of comfort and support as they didn’t have to deal with whispering in the classroom, judging looks from peers during class discussions, and the freedom to allocate time for personal needs. There are many examples of students thriving in digital spaces.
We understand that online schooling did not work well for all, including several of us; however, it did offer a solution for some students and their families to feel safe.
Additionally, asynchronous Fridays offered a stable A/B day schedule for students and dedicated time to questions and clarification.
There were students who disliked this set up as it caused exhaustion for them. For others, it aided in learning better time management. The caveat, however, is that the asynchronous Fridays often left A days robbed whenever there were long weekends.
Moreover, class periods were used purposefully to make sure students understood lesson content. In many classes teachers spoke for less than 30 minutes then provided time for students to work at their own pace.
In addition, new sanitation protocols are now in place that promote student health. As a result of better air filtration, masking when sick, and cleaning desks between classes, many of us did not even catch a cold last year, let alone COVID-19.
If we are open to growth, the pandemic could lead us in the direction of normalizing what needs to be normalized: washing our hands, having the freedom to work independently, and being given opportunities to direct our own learning.
We cannot deny that as a school community, there were areas that improved during the pandemic. We were united through our general gratitude for the human connection we were forced to give up.
Why are we encouraging regressing back to where we were before the major lockdown of 2020?
Why are we refusing to learn, grow, and consider some of the benefits gained from going through such a trying period of time?
If we ignore the past in an attempt to hide from the hardships we faced, we will never recognize the everyday things that need to change.