I was talking with an ESL teacher earlier in the week. By all accounts, she is an extraordinarily devoted teacher, so I really appreciated her insights.
As we chatted, she wondered how her students were faring with the lack of school. She said this situation was permanently changing us. She said she couldn’t imagine how we would ever go back.
As Donald Trump and the governors talk about opening up businesses and society again, I talk to teachers and observe board of ed meetings every day, and I’m hearing a completely different story. Schools aren’t anticipating going back to normal months from now. They have no idea how they will be able to open schools safety in September — five months from now.
They are talking through various plans, like social distancing students in the classroom, which would mean that they would need double the amount of classroom space. Maybe only half the students will attend school at the same time. Since teachers couldn’t simultaneously teach regular school and Zoom classes, that would probably mean that students would only be educated part time.
They have no idea how they’ll educate students who have regressed by a full year. They have no idea how they’ll provide special education services. They have no idea how they’ll keep older teachers safe.
Individual schools sit around waiting for some guidance from the state about how they are supposed to be managing the situation RIGHT NOW, and they aren’t getting any help. Everybody is out on their own. A few schools are making things work, but most aren’t.
Schools have been duct taped together this spring, but things are slowly falling apart.
Most parents have given their schools a pass so far. Their biggest concerns have been matters like the prom and graduation, but the rumbles of discontent, particularly among parents with younger kids, are growing louder.
I have no idea where we are going. Will an edTech company, like the Khan Academy, step into the void? Will parents revolt? Will there be a mass exit of the most educated parents? What is going to be the long term impact on the most vulnerable students? Will teachers strike if they are forced back into schools this fall?
As scientists warn that we are only in the second inning in dealing with the pandemic, we are also only in the second inning in rebuilding various government functions, like public education, public college, and transportation. Private businesses can just open their doors, but until the schools are back in order, they won’t have any workers or customers.