We are heading into a seemingly impossible time if you have school-aged children or you are a teacher.
Teachers are going to have to navigate waters they have never entered before.
They are going to have to operate under some inconceivable conditions.
Parents are more polarized than ever.
Some feel very strongly about sending their kids back to school.
Others feel very strongly about keeping them home.
School districts are being required to submit three different return-to-school plans.:
- a full return to school
- a full distance learning plan
- a hybrid of the two
A full return to school will not look anything like a normal return to school for students.
Excluding recess, most students will be confined to their classrooms for the entire school day. They will eat in the classroom and have special area subjects in the classroom. Even phys ed class.
Gyms will likely be used to store materials that kids can’t use in the classroom.
There will be no partner reading or group activities or read alouds with kids sitting together on the carpet.
Kids will be wearing masks all day and required to maintain distance from all their peers.
That’s a huge change in standard operation.
Can kids adapt?
Sure they can.
But this is going to take time. And practice.
Kids are going to have to make lots of changes.
Teachers are going to have to make lots of changes.
Think about how you feel when the grocery store rearranges stuff.
It pisses you off.
It takes a long time to get used to it.
ShopRite switched their bread aisle clear across the store about a month ago and I still am not used to it.
That’s like a dumb little change.
What schools are going to have to do is that times a billion.
So I was thinking about all this when I was listening to the Jocko Podcast on my run the other day.
Jocko Willink is a retired Navy Seal officer who now owns a consulting company whose mission is to “educate, train, mentor, and empower leaders and organizations to achieve total victory.”
Basically he helps your company/organization kick some serious ass.
The last couple days I’ve been listening to episode #237: How To Turn A Vision Into A Plan For Ultimate Victory.
Jocko applies what he learned as a Navy SEAL officer and commander of a Navy SEAL team to everyday life.
In this episode, he talks about the steps you need to follow to successfully complete a mission.
How when you have a mission, you make a plan to execute that mission.
The plan is important.
But knowing if you can actually execute that plan is equally important.
You have to run through the mission and poke holes in the plan.
Then, you supervise the execution and refine things as they unfold.
Schools have a whole bunch of plans right now.
But none of them have actually been implemented.
Whether we are in school, in a hybrid model, or at home doing 100% distance learning, we have to give teachers and students and parents time to practice.
Time to implement.
Time to refine.
Unlike in March when schools were shut down, teachers will not know their students at all on the first day of school, and students won’t know their teachers.
Teachers won’t understand how each kid in their class operates. They won’t know their strengths and their weaknesses and their quirks.
That’s a hurdle to get over under normal circumstances.
But when you are doing it in masks, and your students are wearing masks, when the kids haven’t been in a classroom in five or six months, when you aren’t allowed to touch anyone, even to give a kid a slight touch on the shoulder for a little redirection, when you might be livestreaming your instruction to kids at home and have a technology component you’ve never dealt with, when you are operating under significantly different circumstances than you ever have before, you gotta give people time to see where the holes are and then work out the kinks.
There will be technology issues.
There will be behavior issues.
There will be health and safety issues.
There will be following protocol issues.
There will be a shit ton of unforseeable issues.
Teachers need time to make adjustments.
Students need time to make adjustments.
Parents need time to make adjustments.
There will be a constant need for refining the mission.
This whole year will be a work in progress.
I hope we give our teachers at least two weeks to evaluate and refine.
I hope we pause all expectations around teaching content and evaluating achievement in the first few weeks of school and just allow everyone involved to have time to practice procedures and logistics and simply adjust to the new (hopefully temporary) normal.
In order to do that though, we need to know what exactly the mission is.
What is the mission?
Is it to get kids in school so people can go to work so we don’t fall into the worst recession ever? Is it mainly economy driven?
Is it to start hammering kids with curriculum to catch them up to some arbitrary benchmark?
Or is it to provide the best learning experience we can for our kids under the current circumstances?
What is the best learning experience?
Are we going to give our teachers time to figure that out once the school year starts?
Are we going to let them refine the process so they can complete the mission — whether the mission begins in school or at home?
We need to make sure we focus not on what the plan is, but on what is the purpose of the mission.
In order to do that, we need to give our teachers time to implement the plan.
And then we need to give them time to refine it as they go.
Otherwise, the mission will be a bust.
And that would be a real loss for the whole country.