As I am sitting enjoying my Easter weekend watching movies and playing video games a very small piece of me misses the hustle and bustle of the holiday traditions before COVID-19. The crowded houses, the kids screaming, the card games, the laughter, the food with family. I miss it but if everyone does their part these things will be back.
As a teacher COVID really has forced a lot of change. How we deliver instruction, how we check in our kids, how we assess. It all had to be shoved to the side and we have had to look at new ways of doing things. Nothing is going perfectly for anyone. The balance of how much work should be assigned, how we check on our students learning, how we address access issues, be it technology or even time, are conversations that we are having now out of desperation that we should have been having years ago out of compassion.
For as long as I have been teaching and much longer the education system has been built on convenience. We assigned whole class novels because it was easier to prepare one lesson and read one book, we gave tests, usually multiple choice, because it was quick assessment that was easy to mark. We assigned hours of homework to show parents how hard kids are working but then just added them to a pile after the “homework” check. Over the years new things promised to “fix” education have come up, most of which have relied heavily on technology. The Flipped classroom was heralded as a game-changer by many. Teachers would prerecord lessons and kids would watch them as homework so that our class time and time in front of the teacher was less about lecture and more about working. Sure a few kids would miss out because they didn’t have access outside of school but there was always lunch hour or study hall (that last sentence was written in the snarkiest voice I can muster).
See our focus was never one of differentiation it was one of compliance. Now with COVID we are being granted an opportunity to slow everything down. It is outrageous to assume students should be spending 8 hours a day while at home with no support working on school work, so we are being more purposeful in what we are asking students to do. It is outrageous to hold on to old assessment practices like tests when the validity of such a practice would be impossible to verify in this current distance model. Now faced with the reality that all students need to be working from home we are finally looking at the inequity that comes with lack of technology access, or reliable internet when assigning work that requires those tools and looking for solutions. We (teachers generally) are finally looking at and trying to address all the practices we once held dear and searching for better.
Yet still there are voices that are calling for a return to normal. They want to just go back to how things were. Comfortable.
After three weeks of not having to put a grade on things and just provide feedback to my students as they turn in work, I have to say, I am not interested in going back to how things were when the first question from students was never anything but “what did I get?” This is a perfect time to move away from grades as something to win and move towards real authentic learning. It is a great time to really assess our practices as teachers and take steps forward refusing once this virus has cleared to step backwards. We have an opportunity to really change the system here but only if we take it.
As we continue on with this I hope for nothing more than the virus to be gone and my students back in my classroom. The classroom will be different. I plan to spend this time learning more about how I can help my students achieve without the grades of old hanging above their heads. I plan to read their work and enjoy their lines and reflections. I plan to talk about books. All the things we are doing now but without going back to the grades. I think it can be done, others are doing it already.
Why go back?