In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has changed how students are educated around the world. The sweeping changes occurring across all sectors of society have led educational institutions to search for innovative solutions in a relatively short period of time. Many teachers had little to no warning, training or time to prepare, and many were immediately locked out of their classrooms as schools shut down at a record pace. With millions of children now home with their parents, how to foster continued learning is at the top of every educator’s priorities.
As our educational system shifts, school systems have been finding innovative ways to reach and teach their students, primarily through virtual learning platforms. With every day that the pandemic keeps kids out of classrooms, teachers are designing new and creative techniques to engage their students by leaning on their training and experience. In this time of uncertainty, talented and dedicated educators are our greatest asset for implementing innovative solutions and ensuring successful distance learning.
Our Current Educational Landscape
With about 57 million kids enrolled in kindergarten through high school, recent school closures in the U.S. created a flood of children pouring back into their homes, which led to families adjusting to a new rhythm of school at home. Sometimes, that means crowded dinner tables and bedrooms as remote-working parents and remote-learning children jostle each other for space. At other times, it might look like coordinating family schedules in order to avoid crashing an overworked wi-fi connection.
While families adjust to new routines at home, school systems are facing the added challenge of reaching and assisting many students in their districts who are experiencing obstacles to at-home learning. For example, children may have parents who can’t or don’t read, parents whose first language is not English, separated parents in conflict or families that live in cramped spaces with no room for separation. Some families may not have access to the internet or might have an internet that struggles to keep up with everyone working and learning from home; while other families may be struggling with unemployment, food shortages or work that requires one or more parents to leave home every day. When learning environments are far from ideal, rates of student attendance and performance decline, making the need for dedicated educators even more critical.
Strong educators know that now is not the time to strive for perfection. Families are stretched and many are working with limited time and resources. As many parents take on the task of assisting their child through lessons, the clarity and support provided by teachers can mean the difference between a student keeping up with assignments or falling behind.
How Teachers are Helping Kids (and their Families) Thrive
With children and parents relying on teachers in ways they haven’t had to before, one of the greatest sources of comfort during this time is knowing that teachers are already well-equipped to handle unconventional situations. Their skills, training and experience are exactly what will carry them through this period of uncertainty, and will allow their students to thrive.
Here are a few skills teachers already possess that make them uniquely prepared to handle a pandemic:
In a regular classroom, teachers are responsible for maintaining structure and order. They create and maintain lesson plans, schedules, grade books and classroom materials. With so many areas of life becoming chaotic and confusing, staying organized in the midst of a pandemic is one of the greatest tools a teacher possesses.
Teachers are constantly developing innovative techniques to teach their students. Trial and error helps refine successful methods, and with so many students currently facing unique circumstances, now is the time to try out-of-the-box assignments that get kids excited and thinking about learning in new ways.
Teachers are flexible and able to change plans quickly if they see something isn’t working. Plenty of distractions and interruptions will occur when there is no separation between work, home and school. So, just like they do in their classroom, teachers know how to pivot quickly and find a better direction to make sure they are reaching and engaging their students.
Teachers know their students, and they know when something is off. Students might be afraid or embarrassed to talk about troubles they are facing at home. It’s important for teachers to recognize the signs indicating that a student needs help and extra attention.
Working together collaboratively is always important, and never more so than now. Ensuring that time is built in for professional collaboration, department planning and learning teams gives teachers the much needed support they need.
Teachers need to be able to help their students through the chaos while remaining calm and in control. Eventually, this is going to pass, and the greatest thing we can do for our children during this time is continue to foster their love of learning through consistency and patience.
Innovative Teachers Become Highly-Qualified Leaders
While the world faces unprecedented challenges in almost every area of life, we are all searching for signs of stability and familiarity. This is especially true of children, who thrive when consistent routines are in place. Teachers offer just that, and as the challenges facing our society grow, our reliance on teachers will increase to help provide stability, encouragement and solutions. As the pandemic continues to shape our educational system, the future of learning may never look exactly the same as it once did.
As we continue to wade through these periods of uncertainty and discovery, our schools will need not only highly-qualified teachers, but strong leaders and administrators. The teachers facing the challenges of virtual classrooms today are perfectly equipped to become the educational leaders of tomorrow. For those teachers interested in moving into a leadership position, a master’s degree in education may be the next step.
Pursuing a Graduate Degree in Education at Holy Family College
At Holy Family College, we offer two unique Master in Education degree programs, along with additional licensure programs, to give teachers the opportunity to hone their skills and follow the career path that is perfect for them. Our Master of Arts in Education Teacher Leadership Program is designed for experienced classroom teachers who wish to remain in the classroom while developing the knowledge and skills, which will allow them to take a more active professional leadership role. While our Master of Arts in Education Administrator Leadership Program focuses on developing the knowledge, skills and disposition needed for effective, responsible school leadership.
All of our programs focus on making participants not only better educators, but better people. Delivered in a cohort model, our coursework gives students in our program the opportunity to encourage and challenge each other in a culture of collaboration. As servant leaders, our faculty and students are committed to the success of all others in the learning community, regardless of what shape the educational system takes in the future.