By Mr. Rangel; 6th Grade Resource Teacher in Seattle
As most teachers and students are returning to class and the pandemic seems to be finally ending, I can’t seem to forget how the pandemic was going to have us “rethink” education to better serve our students. We went through many changes throughout this year, but I do not think we were able to achieve the goal of restructuring the education system significantly. There are many aspects that have continued throughout this pandemic and will persist for more years to come. Don’t get me wrong, I am a product of the American Public-School system and can’t say it’s all bad. Plus, many important changes took place during the pandemic, which I feel should’ve been implemented LONG ago.
To start, inclusion has been a focus on the American school system for some time now and I feel we should continue to hash this out and truly include all members of the learning community. As we’ve seen during the past year, social relationships are vital when it comes to student’s well being and success. If all students of different ability levels were to be integrated as much as possible throughout the school day, it would lead to stronger relationships and more compassion for students, especially those furthest from educational justice.
Schools also realized the importance of 1-1 technology during the past year. This has been a long time coming and students should’ve been provided with technology much earlier. Our world is overrun with technology and computers, children need to be exposed to it and learn important skills as early as possible. This should also be provided to students, whether they can afford it or not. These changes and resources need to be accessible to everyone to make sure we provide the most equitable education to all students.
Another positive that came out of the chaos that was the pandemic, was the implementation of a more flexible school week. Whether it is hybrid learning, 4 days a week, or splitting students into cohorts, the concept of allowing students more time at home and away from the school building will prove to be beneficial in the long run. I feel like our time during the week can be re-structured in a way where, even in a shorter amount of time, students will be more productive and will be able to retain information easier. As long as there is a focus on community building, effective productivity, and supporting mental health, schools can shift to providing opportunities for students to learn in the real-world and away from the traditional “brick and mortar” school house.
Of course, there are many obstacles to jump through to be able to actually re-structure education. The allocation of resources, tailoring curriculum to meet the needs of the 21st century, and providing high quality training to teachers will always prove to be a challenge. But, I am sure educators are up for that challenge. We are willing to provide our heart and soul to make sure the future of this country is bright and will be led by strong and capable people. Many have been working towards this goal for years, and it is up to the next generation of educators, advocates, and families to come together and make the changes necessary to ensure the success of all our students.