June 16, 2022
Over the past two years I have heard the phrase “get back to normal” over and over again. I have even used it myself. In our culture, we seem to have a propensity for believing that the way things used to be were better. We regularly use phrases to suggest if we could just turn back the clock, life would be better or more comfortable. I’m sure you have heard or used expressions, such as:
The good old days.
Return to a simpler time.
Once upon a time.
And I get it. Sometimes a return to the old ways of doing things or the old ways of living would be nice. To return to our childhood when summer stretched ahead of us with no end in sight. To only have three channels to choose from on the television (surely made deciding what to watch less stressful). To not have to manage so many passwords! There were things about the past that were “better.”
However, the reality is that we cannot go back. We must look forward and journey on. It is great to reflect on the past, to remember and to assess progress. But we cannot live there, and we should not waste the present or squander the future wishing for the past to return.
As I reflect on the last two years, I don’t see a need to go back to life before March 2020. However, I see a great need for us to re-engage in the work that many educators were doing before the pandemic. Prior to adjusting our educational strategies to online classes, posting of work in instructional management systems so that students didn’t miss out on content, and keeping our distance, many of us were working on developing more student-centered learning strategies. Whether you call those strategies problem- or project-based, inquiry-based, hands-on, real-world, or all of the above, we were focused on developing student-centered classrooms where students are “doing” the work. The teacher is the facilitator, and students grapple with the content in engaging and exciting ways.
These learning strategies are designed to promote a more engaging academic experience for students - one in which they are active learners not passive recipients of information. As we look forward to the next school year, it is imperative that we engage our students in their learning, and that is going to require us educators to re-engage in the work that we were doing before we knew what COVID meant.
In March 2020, we turned on a dime and figured out how to do school from a distance and without contact. And that was important…then. But now it is time to re-engage in our commitment to meet the needs of our students. The pandemic has not only impacted our students’ academic learning, but their mental wellness, and now is the time to commit to instruction that engages our students in exciting and meaningful ways. Now is the time to look ahead and create a new normal!
Engaging, real-world problem solving is what every career tech classroom is like every day. Students learning by doing; students learning by being presented with real-world, work-based problems and challenges. I invite educators of all grade levels to visit a career tech classroom this fall if you have never experienced one. You will be amazed and inspired.