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Education Works; Don’t Change It

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve heard many daily press conferences by doctors, scientists, and city, county, state, and national leaders. Some of what we’ve read on various social media, has been false, fake, or edited, and some of what we’ve heard has been factually true and makes a lot of sense, even if it goes against what we’d like to hear. Much of it though, has been opinionated, self-serving, egotistical, accusatory, immature, rude, and unprofessional.

I’m not a doctor, nor a scientist, so listening, I try and rely on the expertise of what those individuals in those fields are saying and recommending during this pandemic. I have a wife, children, grandchildren, a great-grandchild, and other family and friends. I want all of them to stay safe and get through this pandemic as safely as possible. If that requires me to socially distance myself, I’ll do it. If it means wearing a mask, I’ll do that, too. I’ve been affected economically, and entertainingly, by the shutdown of businesses, as most have been since March. I feel, though, any financial loss, or material things I may not be able to afford right now, is far more expendable to me than possibly losing a loved one, or someone near and dear to me. I’m not paranoid, nor afraid. I’m just weighing priorities which have led me to decide to listen to those with expertise in aspects of this Coronavirus, namely those in Medicine and Science.

My expertise, if you can call it that of me, is education. I’ve spent 45 years in classrooms — 14 years as a substitute teacher; 3 years as a tutor; and 31 years as a classroom teacher with some of those years overlapping. I’ve seen uncountable changes in teaching management strategies, mechanics, methods, and evaluations, some suggested by people never having been in classrooms themselves, unless you count their time as students, hence the large number.

The one greatest constant in all my years in classrooms, was/is the personal, same-room contact between student and teacher. I’m talking about the face-to-face, the raising-of-the-hand-to ask-a-question, the high-five-when-making-a-teacher/classmate-proud-of-them-for-achieving goals, or mastering concepts, or making good decisions, or doing something nice for fellow students, or paraprofessionals, teachers, staff members, or visitors to the school, contact. It includes seeing excited faces of students up close. It includes seeing students’ wide eyes during fieldtrips, them experiencing things never seen/done before and maybe never again. It also used to mean being able to give that student a hug, when the teacher felt a student needed one, but that, unfortunately, has become discouraged because it might be perceived as inappropriate behavior on the adult’s part.

Kids leave their homes to go to school. They’re away from parents, adult contact and influence when they go to school. They need that gap to be filled during that biggest part of their day without those people from home. That comes from real people in the schools.

Kids need contact with other kids. If at home all day, just using devices, they don’t have opportunities to work together, problem solve together, learn to encourage each other, compromise with each other, make suggestions, concessions, listen to, and respect each other, and the ideas of others. Students can’t get that if each is in their own home.

People need contact with people, not devices. Re-imagine the medical field. If we’re in need of a life-saving operation, would we want it performed distantly, and robotically, by a mechanic watching a You Tube video? I’d want to put my surgery literally in the hands of someone who has done it many times before, not someone using step by step instructions from an iPad.

Education works. It works because of personal interactive classrooms. Education has survived during this pandemic because school personnel, real people, scrambled to successfully create “at-home” classrooms, using devices and Zoom, but, still, the biggest thing missing has been personal student/teacher, student/student, and teacher/teacher in-person interaction.

Please don’t try and re-imagine education. Just as we’ve relied on the expertise and care from those in the medical and science trenches during this pandemic, please rely on the expertise, dedication, and huge hearts of those people in the education trenches every day.

Education isn’t broken. Don’t break it, just so you can try and fix it without experience.

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