Monday, December 6, 2021

New & Old Lessons

More Straight Talk

Over the last weekend, schools here in Collier County and around the nation held graduation ceremonies for elementary, middle, high school and colleges. They certainly weren’t the normal celebrations of the achievements we have become accustomed to, but staff, parents and students should be applauded for coming together to ensure we didn’t forget the milestone successes made by this next generation.

We also shouldn’t forget the efforts it took to get these young people over the finish line by both the educators and their parents who would also have to adapt to the challenges which we have never seen prior to the COVID-19 encounter.

One of the real questions which should be looked at is how our educational institutions will be able to adapt. Approximately 90% of the 1.5 billion students were not able to attend school in the traditional way. It may take years to ascertain how these students and their teachers were able to adapt to the challenges presented by the pandemic and its effects on them.

To say educators had to “scramble” to make the short-term adjustments work over these last three months or more is probably an understatement. You might say those younger students in grade school and on the secondary level were hit by a tsunami of sorts and were probably affected the most due to the adjustments which were required regarding remote learning within our educational institutions.

Colleges and universities had already begun a process that has allowed students to attend online classes. Over the years, we have recognized the need for providing a venue for those that may have a need to acquire more skill sets, but do not have the ability to focus fulltime on educational pursuits.

I was surprised a few years ago to see a national advertising campaign for Southern New Hampshire University. I was aware of the school and the excellent reputation it had as a business school but couldn’t believe it would be recruiting potential students from Florida. I was then informed by friends in N.H. that it had built quite an online presence and was very highly rated and did recruit from throughout the country.

The recent issues surrounding the pandemic has provided a larger platform for remote learning in colleges and universities around the world and here within our own nation. The need to continue the remote-learning experience and broaden those choices may well provide great prospects in the higher education area which earlier weren’t available to potential students.

Children in the middle and high school levels may also see better opportunities for one on one instruction and tutoring in studies which are proving to be a challenge to them. One on one remote studies may prove to be more cost-effective should that need be required.

Certainly, nothing competes with the face to face instructional offerings which we have all been accustomed to over the years. But like many things, change is rapidly occurring across a multitude of areas. 

As we look to return to the classrooms next Fall, we may see reconfigured teaching spaces, as we take into consideration proper “social distancing,” and other procedures and reforms made necessary due to the recent pandemic.

The move to provide utilization of online tools such as laptops or tablets may assist institutions in their efforts to make complimenting the one on one personal interactions between student and instructor and not replacing the instructors with “gadgets.” 

I believe our experience during the last three months being exposed to 100% homeschooling or virtual instruction provided us an insight into the significant disadvantages of that philosophy. In-person, teacher-led instruction has too many advantages and the economic situation regarding the loss of family income too many disadvantages.

We will certainly remember the 2019-2020 school year. Educators, staff, students and families will have taken away many different experiences. How we apply those lessons will have an impact on education in our nation and throughout the educational community for decades to come.

Hopefully, we’ve have learned about the value of our teachers and the important roles they play in our children’s lives. I am sure parents have learned a few valuable lessons as well as students during these difficult times.

I know in my discussions with parents, I’ve heard so much about the renewed appreciation for the value of the “social interaction” between students and teachers within the educational system itself.

There is much we can learn from this experience with COVID-19, besides the inconvenience of having to “shelter in place,” wearing a mask, washing our hands, limiting our social interaction with others and the emotional and financial pain it has caused for so many.

We now must apply some of those lessons we’ve learned as we move forward to prepare for the next challenge that may come. 


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