COVID19 tried to teach us many lessons about education. Parents should have learned to appreciate teachers more; schools should have learned to trust them more. Schools that mastered the lesson of trust would have encouraged teachers to design more learning activities offline. Before this pandemic we all complained about children being on electronic devices too much, and then schools defeated this lesson by engaging students in online learning for most of the school day.
Parents should have realised that ultimately it is their responsibility to educate their children. School is a place where children go to learn, but much of their education lies in the hands of parents who must teach the big lessons in life: diligence, empathy and resilience – all qualities that are hopefully reinforced in schools.
Ultimately, parents must monitor their children’s formal education and enrich their children’s education. Parents who do this effectively engage their children in fun-filled educational activities that include reading, age-appropriate research, stimulating conversation, games and creative projects.
The reason for education is to promote life-long learning. It’s a message we need to learn – even if we control covid19 so children can go to school next year. Who knows where the next big challenge to life as we once knew it will come?
We should have learned that this past year was not the best time to introduce many new skills, but it was the best time to test the skills taught before.
The best test to measure what is learned is to see if students can apply those skills to their own lives. You’ve taught multiplication and division to elementary students. Instead of giving them maths problems on paper, have elementary students count the snacks in the house, see how much they use every day, and then figure out how many days those snacks will last so that they can contribute to a shopping list.
If you’re an English teacher who taught writing persuasive essays, have students write a persuasive essay about why it is important for people to get vaccinated for covid19. This will measure analytical and research skills already taught.
Here’s an assignment: you cannot leave the house for three weeks. Come up with a list of ten fulfilling activities you can do to make you feel happy and accomplished.
How about a research project on how students have used covid19 to come up with creative projects? Remember Avi Schiffman, the teenager from Seattle who designed a website that tracked covid19 cases early in the epidemic? He had one of the earliest and best covid19 trackers. He also said you can find anything you need to learn on YouTube.
Teachers could give an assignment that requires a full day of learning with no electronic devices. Students can identify and track their feelings through the day and assess their dependency on electronic devices. Have students identify five fun-learning activities for a day that don’t require any electronic device. What did students learn about themselves when they spent a device-free day?
When I was a librarian, one of my favourite activities was to have students identify five interests, and then narrow them down to one for a research project.
That assignment fascinated me because over half of the students said they didn’t have any interests.
“Everyone has interests,” I said.
After much probing, it turned out they did have interests, but they thought those interests wouldn’t be considered important to adults.
About three students in every class said their main interest was sleeping. When I said, “That is a perfect project,” they looked shocked.
“What interests you about sleep?” I asked.
“How to get more sleep or better sleep,” they said.
They became excited when I told them there are books and articles that show what research has said about sleep.
Can you imagine how children’s education would benefit if they figured out the key to getting more sleep before they return to school next year?
Another girl in my library class said she was only interested in shopping.
“That’s a good project,” I said.“Find out where the best online shopping is in Trinidad.”
When you find projects that interest students personally, they will work hard and apply the lessons they have learned. I know because they did that in my library classes without any grades involved. Just give them a good rubric to measure expectations.
If we pretend that internet learning could have been a substitute for in-class learning this year, then we failed in education’s main mission in life: creativity.