Everything’s messed up.

Covid19 found its way into our American lives and consciousness early in the year 2020. Soon after it made its way into our American public schools. It came with disastrous effects for some educators and school related staff. Moreover, it came with nationwide disconnection and adverse impact on children’s development and learning. This effect lingers today even as school systems and the people that inhabit them struggle to learn, collaborate, innovate, and recover. Everything is truly messed up. 

There are a few children and families who are doing well on these fronts. There are more children and families who are demonstrating resilience and doing ok. They miss many things about their former school life and environments but they are doing ok. There are many, many more children that are just surviving in terms of their development and learning. Distance learning and covid19 has messed up what we as educators do with and for these children. In this sense, everything’s messed up. What we once did, we don’t do much of these days. 

So what are we to do ? We educators… We parents… We citizens…

First, we try to keep our educators and families and communities safe from covid19.

Then, we focus on learning.

We admit and be transparent about the problems that currently face us and we try hard to learn to solve the problems and improve our results.

Since early in 2020, the Rio School District has focused on connecting, engaging to learn, and improving the learning. These three simple sets of words to say are great challenges that matter. March to June we patched a damaged ship. Now we need to build a ship. We need to build a better ship than we hobbled together that past school year and we need to build a ship that will improve and meet the needs of every child during and beyond the long period that covid19 will affect us.

Connecting in these covid19 times means many things.

Engaging to learn means many things.

Improving learning is improving learning.

Connecting means connecting kids online with computers, internet service, hotspots, technical support, troubleshooting skills and effectiveness.

Connecting means connecting people emotionally and culturally.

Connecting means making connections between child, family, school and community.

Connecting means many things.

Engaging to learn brings to mind the word “engagement.” We have different ways of thinking of the word engagement. Educational research defines it in various ways. As teachers and students we know it when we see it. We see it on faces, in body language, in discourse, and in the artifacts students create during the learning activities we construct.

What we can do in these covid19 times when most children are relegated to distance learning is to get better at helping children learn in these contexts while we all wait for the coronavirus pandemic to be problem-solved by human society. Our problem in schools is the adversely impacted learning and wellbeing of children.  

Will Schools Ever Be The Same?

Will schools ever be the same?

The coronavirus has altered many human institutions. It has altered human life. For centuries, people have gone to schools to learn and to gain knowledge, skills, and access to opportunities. The pandemic has exposed the weakness of our current day schools and also revealed their relevance and adaptability and flexibility. The pandemic has accelerated and amplified some changes in society and schools that have developed over time such as our dependence on computer technology to achieve school goals and aims. 

This post intends to express the thoughts of one public school educator with experience in the field since 1985 and to the current pandemic impacted days of 2020. Pondering or predicting the future is a curious endeavor. In times of crisis and upheaval, even moreso. I wonder if post pandemic schooling will be the same as it was pre-pandemic. I wonder if there will be a post pandemic time at all. I wonder if schooling will adapt slightly to what we have known in modern times or if the essential structures of schooling will be forever markedly changed from this point on.

In writing this post I imagine a collection of similar posts by acting and active educators around the world. This gallery of pondering, wondering, predicting would be useful to my mind. So often, educators have others write and predict and guide for us and for schools. Sometimes by former educators or exclusively researchers or others interested but not directly active in the teaching profession. These expressed thoughts are of value indeed, however, I think of these active educator writing posts as a collective action with potential impact on the active educators as well as the society at large.

During my three plus decades  as a worker in American public schools, I have observed a variety of changes in many aspects of the systems. There are certainly more computers and certainly access to information for all involved has been radically changed via the growth of the internet. I have experienced what I view as a state and federal governmental involvement in public schools that tended towards standardization and the narrowing of goals and aims of schools and school systems. In recent years, I have contributed to what I sense as an undoing of this three decade trend if not perhaps an awakening or renaissance of more human and progressive educational thinking and organizing that were common in previous time periods. 

The last three decades have also produced a number of other changes as they relate to schools and the legal and political contexts they exist in. The society at large is significantly more litigious and risk averse. Although legal cases such as Brown v. Board of education established the end of de jure segregation in schools, de facto segregation has risen and in many contexts left more segregated schools in the wake. More children in public schools are poor now proportionately than thirty years ago and more children are second language learners of English. The role and appreciation for the job of teaching has changed significantly in these last thirty years in terms of the ways media and government either value or hold the profession in esteem. Unions and teacher unions have been broken in the majority of states in the last thirty years while local communities and families seem to continue to value and love their teachers perhaps now more than ever.

Years ago, my Ph.D. work at the University of California, Santa Barbara explored students, teachers and families engaged in an online project designed for the Library of Congress that supported learners as they explored the American Dream. Some writers both then and now said or say that the American Dream is dead. Others see it as enduring. When we look at statistics and social mobility through economic and other lenses some suggest that social and economic mobility has decreased in America these last thirty years and this certainly implicates schools as an essential variable in the process. 

All said, the pandemic has kept many children and teachers away from face to face interactions and everything that this normally means in modern America. It has thrust our schools to attempt to perform our functions online, on the phone, or via document and materials exchanges. Many of our schools began this adaptation in March of 2020. Many continue in this manner to this day as we entered the 2020/21 school year. In the event that this virus and our ability to prevent it from getting masses ill and even dying remains similar to what we have been experiencing the past five months, I wonder what this holds for schools in the rest of the 2020s and beyond. I wonder if we will go back to the ways we used to do school. I wonder if we will adopt some of the ways we have adjusted to in the last five months. I wonder if over time the entire function and context of public schools will change in major ways. 

What follows is a series of projections and suggestions. I wish educators around the world would write in the same way and I would try to read them all. Schools, so undervalued and misunderstood in the past thirty years from my point of view, might benefit as well as the societies they serve. 

School facilities and safety practices should improve in the coming years. We have the knowledge and the means and this would be a much welcome change.

School and community nutrition and basic access to meals should improve in the coming years. We have the means and this would be a much welcome change. People should not go hungry in America.

Internet access and access to digital information and communication should improve in the coming years. We have the means and knowledge and this simple improvement would both challenge schools as seemingly unitary sources for learning as well as inspire them to adapt to the diverse needs of its children and citizenry.

Equity in education has always been a major issue in America. From the times, not that long ago, when slaves and women were banned from educational opportunities to modern times when real estate or zip code are profoundly linked to educational opportunity and educational quality. This pandemic and the civil unrest being expressed in the media and the streets of America and around the world are surely bringing greater momentary attention to educational equity issues but I’m not sure what the post pandemic, if there is one, holds for these equity issues in reality. If we get more kids online than ever before, that will be a boost for equity but we are unable to provide quality education in ways that improve our old outcomes, this may exacerbate our legacy of divide along the schoolhouse lines.   

An even more dark projection might envision that the political will to have social institutions that are part of the public agora such as public schools, post offices, or hospitals might fade and seek to exist. If one imagines a public school system funded with significantly less money, say 50% or 25% or even none at all, could this be a post pandemic reality? I certainly hope not. I mention it, however, to make my note of the last thirty years of privatization of American institutions and the homogenization of many aspects of our culture and communities. When people get together in real face to face communities, even under pressures to standardize and factory-ize, American schools have sustained efforts and outcomes to be creatively responsive and different as the people and community they exist in. Borrowing from Yong Zhao’s work, it’s the messiness of our sausage making that has kept us creative and strong in spite of attempts to create a one size fits all American school.

Post pandemic schools should be able to offer many more teachers with many more skills and knowledge in interest in using digital tools to provide a “still human” education for children.

Post pandemic schools should be able to and be forced to think more clearly and well about what they want learners to do on campus and what they want them to do at home as it relates to their learning.

Post pandemic schools should be able to think much more deeply about the value and potential of children learning outdoors and from and with nature.

Post pandemic schools should be able to think much more deeply about what has always been true but is now abundantly and obviously apparent, that is, that children’s learning and development is built on a triangular relationship and set of communication pathways between the child, their schools, and their families. Our past failings to truly engage in more fruitful parent, child, school learnings have been deeply exposed. In many cases, however, our educators are doing everything they can to re-connect and more deeply connect with families.

Of course I am tempted to begin a long series of comments on pedagogy and curriculum and assessments that relate to what the pandemic has done and might do to and for schools. I will refrain for now I think. Writing this piece….or at least trying to start writing it has led me to believe that the most important contribution I can make at this moment is to ask a simple question and ask, encourage, challenge other educators to speak for ourselves. For too long, for myriad reasons we have allowed others to speak for us as we quietly just do the work we think is our best for children, family and community. To my mind, this cannot stand. In whatever media or social media or context educators choose, I think the thousands and millions of educators on the planet should let each other know their thoughts on whether schools will ever be the same post pandemic? Should they? Etc.. and let the world know what we are thinking in ways that extend far beyond the few soundbites cable television affords. It’s time for Back to School Nights (BTSNs) all across America. This year, many will happen online. I think it’s time for us all to go all the way back and all the forward to school and hold candid and lengthy discussions about our duty to protect and educate children and the next generation of Americans. 

I don’t think schools will be the same post pandemic. They will make adaptations. 

I hope they will continue to exist as free publicly funded schools.

I hope they will better serve American children, families, and communities.

I hope they will provide more equitable opportunities for all children regardless of race, real estate, or family income.

More importantly, for as long as I do this work, I will continue to take actions to achieve these goals as I have been these past three decades plus years. 

It is deeply meaningful, rewarding, but sometimes Quixotic work.

   

 

     

The 2020/21 school year in the Rio School District

This year is unlike any school year in recent history. While the Rio School District was already established during the 1918 flu pandemic, and an historical analysis of what it was like is surely a worthy endeavor, this coming school year which begins online on August 31, 2020 at 9:00 am is going to be an usual experience in many ways. Although campuses were closed in March of the 2019/20 school year due to this coronavirus pandemic, we were all shocked into a major adaptation in order to keep school going.

During last school year’s closures we worked hard to learn to adapt in many ways. Lessons learned will be applied this school year. We learned that connecting with children and families was and is the first task. Along these lines, we will begin this school year and our two weeks of Smart Start working to make sure that families and children have the technology and other resources they need to establish a regular weekly and daily schedule that supports their connecting, engaging and improving learning.

We know this school year (at-home/distance learning) opening is challenging for many families who may struggle with technology or child care issues. We know that all families want to return to a normal time when children can safely come to school and enjoy and thrive in the on-campus learning environment. Along these lines, the board of trustees and administration are working with staff to develop and implement a plan to shift back to an on-campus & distance blended learning model when state and county health departments declare that Ventura County is safe to do so. These plans will have to adhere to required precautions including social distancing, face mask wearing, disinfecting procedures and more. 

Recently, county health officials changed their position in terms of consideration of waivers for some on-campus learning during the time when Ventura County is still not meeting state required coronavirus statistical requirements for moving off the state watch list for cases. District staff and the board of trustees will consider this recent change of position at the same as preparing to open school in the distance learning model. Decisions related to the safety and well-being of children and community are of great consequence. As always, decisions will be informed by communications with staff and community as well as the best possible information and scientific guidelines.

As we get ready to start school in the distance learning mode, we are also preparing campuses and staff to be as safe as possible when children do return to schools for face to face learning. We look to every staff member to maximize their collaboration, flexibility, and innovation as we get ready to serve the children and families of the Rio School District. We seek and greatly appreciate your understanding and cooperation as families and community members as we work to meet the basic goals for the opening of the school year;

Goal 1: Connect 100% of children and families to their classes and teachers.

Goal 2: Engage 100% of children in meaningful learning activities.

Goal 3: Improve learning over time.

Now more than ever, the communication and relationships between families and schools are critical to children’s development and learning. We look forward to serving children and community and to accomplishing these and many more goals.

John Puglisi, Ph.D.

Superintendent, Rio School District

Educating Learners to Thrive

 

Were Schools Ready for a Pandemic ?

Were Schools Ready for a Pandemic ?

No. 

Was anyone ready for this pandemic?

No.

Are schools getting ready to serve children in the pandemic?

Yes.

Our American public schools have to be ready for just about any eventuality and sadly in recent history, even for school shootings. For years, those of us who lead schools work to plan to create safe environments where children can learn and develop as human beings and citizens. The work we do and planning is ever changing as the needs and contexts change in society.

The recent pandemic has set us into action getting ready to keep children safe while supporting their learning and development. We will meet this challenge by planning, learning, engaging the community, iterating, innovating, and caring deeply about the work we do. 

I think it’s important for the public to know how we are planning as well as the dynamics and conditions that we are required to respond to as we plan. Each school District in California is working with their board of trustees and community to meet the challenge at the same time as responding to regularly changing guidance, budgets, and requirements from state, federal, and county governmental agencies. These governmental dynamics are evolving and changing weekly. In this context, school Districts are planning for safe learning models and re-planning each time the dynamics change.

This planning environment is similar to war planning but it is very unfamiliar to most people who have families and children and want to know now how things will be so they can plan their own lives. As such, school Districts are planning and looking forward to the time and moment when federal, state, and county guidance will be more concrete and clear. This time may come very close to the beginning of the new 2020/21 school year and even more problematic, is likely to be susceptible to change at any time that the pandemic outcomes change. The virus, it seems, does not cater to calendar or schedules.

School leaders recognize this state of affairs is stressing and challenging for everyone involved, most especially families and children. We want all children and families to know and count on us to provide the safest and best possible learning environments and processes. We will make this happen and we will work diligently all summer to increase the quality and quantity of our communication with everyone so people can know as much as possible about what to expect for the coming school year. 

We will be ready in 2020/21. We will provide safe, quality learning environments and opportunities. We know that the school-student-family relationship is even more critical for children in these pandemic times but we also know that our community is strong and caring and resilient and will rally together with teachers and school leaders to do what is right for every child. Our goal is to provide a clear plan to the community by August 3, 2020 so families have a few weeks to consider their next steps in educating their children during these pandemic times.

What’s it take to be a great School Principal?

The list of answers to this question is likely very long. Books are written about the role. Many points of view will answer the question differently. Teachers, parents, students, community members all will have their opinion. Principals, themselves, are worthy of a good listening after being asked this question. I asked a couple principals recently during our end of year evaluation discussions and they shared the following thoughts.

Vulnerability –  principals need to know what they know and what they don’t know. They need to be Lifelong learners and need to learn community and organizational contexts while building on their own strengths and experiences.

Work Ethic –  principals need to have a can do, never say die attitude and know there is always a way but you might have to find the way.

Building or contributing to a school identity.

Building collaboration

Aligning staff for strength and success

Know your staff and team

Create a supportive environment for staff for organizational development.

Patience – with oneself and others. Including being a good listener and problem solver and being empathetic. In order to help solve problems you really have to understand them.

Serving families and knowing the community and culture of the school.

Know how to reach, speak, and engage the community for who they are.

Leading by example as a teacher and human being.

Being out and about with children and staff regularly.

Rio’s school leaders are diverse in experience and style. They are all dedicated educators who carved their educator teeth as teachers and who find the work of teaching and classroom culture as central to their work. 

Principals are the middle managers of the Local Educational Agency (LEA) usually known as a school District. Middle managers usually have the most difficult job in administration as they work in the in-between-realm of responsiveness to students, staff, and families as well as higher level hierarchies in the organization.

This 2019-20 school year was one for the ages and we thank all our school leaders for leading well and finishing the school year strong and with hope for the challenges that are to come.

 

IMAGE A NATION

IMAGINATION

IMAGE  I  NATION

IMAGE A NATION

Since I can remember, which is probably as a four year old, I have always looked with an artist’s eye. I have always seen with my outer and inner eyes. I am fortunate in this way. This way of being likely emerges from both nature and nurture. Burnt into my DNA and nurtured by my parents and community.

The way it works for me is basically a process of having an idea, seeing it as a fuzzy or sometimes very clear picture or video clip and then beginning to backwards map the process of realizing or actualizing the image into an actual human construction whether its a piece of art, music, text, or organizational function.

Since I can remember, I too, have imagined, along with others, how my human life can imagine and act to actualize a better America and global human society. When I was four, 1965, this type of thinking and doing was developing into full bloom. From my perch, my times were connected to past times doing the same and to this time in 2020 doing the same.

This said, every imagination and action happens in its present moment. The moment it is actualized it becomes the past. The moment before it is actualized it remains in the future. 

These 2020 times are filled with imaging our nation. Imaging our world. Many and dare I say most, imagine a world where the fallacy of race is subordinated to a relic of the past and justice for all is elevated to the moment and the future. Many, and dare I say most, imagine a world and nation in which justice includes addressing and repairing the injustices of the past. These imaginations are cloudy and filled with things to do to make them clear and real in the moment, but they must be actualized in action in the moment for them to move from whatever an idea or image actually is into tangible and realized outcomes.

Every person is an artist. Every person imagines and realizes. 2020 is a year for collective imagining, yes, and for collective and deeply collaborative making. 

With large and open eyes, our children are taking in everything we do as I did in 1965. They are carving their imaginative and active teeth in the models they see and don’t see. Some will follow our models, others, thankfully, will seek new models beyond the seen. 

Life is creative. All organisms are creative. Life is a creation. In these pandemic times ahead, our schools can find a way to THRIVE by recognizing what some of our instincts to standardize, commodify, and normalize can sometimes quell, suppress, or quiet, we can develop our schools as safe places for children and educators to fully develop their creative selves in order to learn the literacies we need as well as to develop the imagination needed, both individual and collective, to truly make a more perfect nation and better human society and planet for all life. 

 

What is America?

In this Spring/Summer of the year 2020, we can ask ourselves as educators and community members many questions. One comes to my mind most recently, What is America? 

In the last few weeks I have been working with students and teachers online and doing math/art activities and lessons with colleagues. The way we work is very open to student voice and experience and as such, children have shared many things including their artwork, stories, or just thinking about a variety of subjects. Recently, a student asked to share a piece of artwork she did after attending a “peaceful” protest as she called it. It was a picture of herself with her hair covering half of her face (a self portrait) and the words “No Justice.” She spoke eloquently and briefly and slowly about the beautiful artwork she had created and then we moved on easily to the next part of the activity which was providing students a chance to share and talk about their geometric art work.

After we signed off, I said to myself, That is America.

The class was made up of a diversity of children from a variety of ethnic origins and mixtures, That is America.

The class and the relationships among students, teachers, and parents engaging in free American public school were clearly an important part of the lives of the children and a part, face to face, that they missed greatly but were dealing with well, That is America.

Recently, I wrote about 1968 when I was a 7 year old visiting Washington D.C. with my father and seeing the impact of Riots after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., That is America.

Today, in 2020, when many things have changed for the better in many ways, but many things in our society persist or re-awaken, That too is America?

Public schools used to be separate for peoples of color because of De Jure segregation.. Written into the law, That is America.

Public schools are now more segregated in many areas due to De Facto segregation (via real estate), That is America.

Public schools matter, That is America.

Who teaches matters and how they teach matters. That is America.

America is an idea about freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It is an idea about democracy. It’s a country that has been developing for 244 years and hopefully many, many more. America is made up of people from every part of the earth. America was founded on manifest destiny and the elimination or subjugation of the peoples that were native to the lands before Europeans arrived. America was founded on kidnapping and enslaving workers from Africa to create an economy and culture. America is an idea and a country. 

America probably means as many different things as there are people to have thoughts about America. This is where the challenge exists. The others, others, people other than our own individual selves, the others, how will we live with them, even in our own families, how will we treat them as we want to be treated or even more importantly as American core principles suggest we should treat them. 

Freedom is what America is all about to me. Many suggest that Freedom in Europe is focused on Freedom from while Freedom in America is focused on Freedom to. Many Americans want their freedom to be and do because they feel safe from. In these times in 2020, we are being forced to realize and remember what many Americans feel every day and wish and can’t help but remember, that they want an America that is Free from…. Where they are free from.. Not the alien hordes coming to vanquish, but rather their own fellow Americans and the American government. 

This is hard to swallow for those who feel free to…..

First, we must acknowledge the simple idea that there are as many Americas as there are people to think of America. When we move on from that, we have to ponder our own individual and collective roles and responsibilities in helping to create an America for others other than ourselves and in doing so, insure that That America will be good for us to be both Free from and Free to….

Free to go to school.

Free to play.

Free to walk outside or be inside safely.

Free to do anything and be anything in the way everyone else in America does.

Free to live and keep living.

American public schools have always played a role in both constructing and being constructed by America. We can thank John Dewey for this frame. Dewey is a great one to examine in these times if you are given to reading to help America be better by helping yourself be better. I can think of many other authors from many different walks of life and perspective, certainly James Baldwin and Langston Hughes come to mind from my past reading but the list is too long to remember because there are so many books and articles I have read and continue to read to help me understand the question, What is America? 

Ergo, the importance of reading. In these pandemic and civil unrest times, among the things I will do, is work to make sure every child learns to be interested, fluent, and meaning making readers. This is one thing we can do as educators and while it is easy to write or say, as of 2020, it has as yet not been accomplished for every child in America. 

What is America?  For me, America is a country of immigrants and indigenous peoples. It is the country that my parents’ parents came to from Italy. They had nothing of value in belongings. They had the stuff in heart and mind that lives through and in me today as well as in my children and now grandchild. For me, a child of the turbulent 60s, America is a country that is struggling and has always struggled with the deep hypocrisy of its greatest core principles many written and conceived or synthesized by slave holders. For me, America is a tussle between Adams and Jefferson. Both who went to their grave around July 4th and knowing that so goes America, so goes the human species or at least that’s how they felt. 

To end, I can only reiterate what I shared in a recent post, I have faith in the children and families of 2020 and in teachers and the Deweyan notion of public schools. In these times, me thinks, that American public schools need to do a lot more constructing of society than being constructed by it.

 

RIO MUSIC FESTIVAL 2020: tHE sHOW gOES oN

Each week for the last several weeks I have been meeting on line with Rio School District Music Teachers and our artists in residence. We have been talking and planning about how we adapt to the pandemic school closures and keep our THRIVING music programs going. We know how important this is to children and community.

We have also been planning Rio Music Festival 2020: The Show Goes On. This year’s online music festival will be held Saturday June 13th and will be available online after the first streaming. I have been inspired by how the music teachers are confronting the challenges they face by adapting, learning and looking for the upsides of these school closure experiences. At today’s meetings after doing a go round on what kids have uploaded music festival videos etc…. I asked them to talk about things that have been positive during these times. They shared some great stuff even though many of them are clearly feeling the loss of live face to face performance and teaching.

Among their many uplifting thoughts were the following;

  • The closures were causing music teachers to learn and explore new ways of teaching
  • Students have more time to play and practice.
  • Many engaged students are more introspective about their music.
  • Many engaged students are getting private online lessons they didn’t get before
  • Musical doors are being opened for many students.
  • Many engaged students are practicing more.
  • Some students who are more shy in regular class are blossoming.
  • Teachers are coming to know their engaged students better.
  • Engaged students are pursuing music for the love of music.
  • Students are hearing themselves more and learning from the video feedback.
  • Opportunities are being made for teachers to be more empathetic.
  • Kids who are engaging are easy to work with.
  • Teacher ideas of teaching music are changing.
  • Kids have the chance to play it again and again.
  • Teachers are learning to speak Spanish and interact with parents more.
  • Being part of the Rio Music Teacher community has been much needed.
  • Making Instructional videos has really developed.
  • Some logistics of physical spaces have been eliminated.

Music, as Stevie Wonder might say, is the Key of Life. In Rio we know that the arts and all of human creativity are not an extra, they are essential and critical to what separates humans from other animals. Rio will continue to support our students by making sure the arts are part of their learning experiences. We hope everyone will tune in to Rio Music Festival 2020: The Show Goes On which will air at 1:00 pm that Saturday, June 13th.

 

What are we to do?

When I was seven years old I often took rides with my father as he worked as a sales associate for Whitman’s Chocolates. He would go to different stores, we called them drug stores back then, and would talk to the store managers and would look at the candy on the shelves. His territory covered parts of Maryland, Virginia and Washington D.C. where he was born and raised as a child. In 1968, I’m not sure why, he took me with him to visit a drug store after the riots that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.. The store we visited had metal accordion gates in front of the storefront and was one of just a few stores that were not burned down or seriously damaged.

I’m not sure why he took me with him that day, my father was not one to make political or even moral lessons out of anything except maybe on the fields of play of various sports because in his heart, his job was really father and coach, his salesman gig was what he did to make money.

Growing up in the 60s I was very aware of society changing dynamics, that is, as much as a curious and always reading and listening to music kid could be. Today, I think about why my dad brought me that day. I don’t remember the discussion but I easily remember the images and maybe even little video clips of what I saw. That’s how I mostly navigate reality, in a visual way. Those days the TV screen included daily body counts from the Vietnam War and some incidences of civil unrest related to both the war and civil rights.

Now 52 years later, we are living with a pandemic and once again we are experiencing and visualizing civil strife in our city streets. We are seeing or experiencing protests and riots, however you define these or separate these. The world seems topsy turvy to us and we can only wonder how 2020’s seven year olds are experiencing these upheavals. Fortunately, I had great caring parents and my teachers to rely on. I also had my friends to share the experiences with and I often interacted with older children and other adults who helped shape my experiences and points of view. 

So what are we to do as educators and parents in these times? This is a very big question.  No one has exactly the right answer to this question regardless of our desire to share platitudes and words of wisdom. Words do not meet this challenge though they are deeply important as we – the human race – are so tuned to and by language. We are equally tuned to and by visuals. We see the actions about us. We are also tuned by the spirit, the as yet, un-objectified, unscience explained nature in us all. 

As educators, in these times, I can only say that I have great belief in parents and teachers to continue to do the things that matter most to children and to learn to do some new things. Caring is the number one focal point in these times that children will look to for reference points. Who cares for me? Who should I care for? These questions are among the things that may have been destabilized or for some fortunate children, accentuated for the positive. 

Our recently gathered thought exchanges and survey responses are yielding information about how teachers and parents are experiencing these coronavirus times. A common theme that has emerged is that children and families need more and different ways of being connected to their teachers and schools. 

So what are we to do? Keep doing the things we have always done that help children be safe, feel well, and learn. Start doing and learning to do things that help children make sense of the world and society that we ourselves are trying to make sense of. As is usually the case when we have children in our physical spaces with us, when we get them involved together with us in making sense together, we find the best balances of what teachers will do, parents will do, and children will do.

I am fortunate to have had the chance to work with so many caring educators, parents, and children these past 34 years in public education work. They have shaped me to see the world as far more filled with loving, curious, creative, optimistic and intelligent human beings than with the small minority of often tragically life-scarred people who behave in these times or any other times in ways other than lovingly and caring for others. 

I think of these times as a great big fire. What are we to do? We have to figure out together what to put on it, or whether to put anything on it at all so we can get to the post fire times and then think hard and long and act so this fire is less damaging to the planet and to the human species when it raises its head again.

My father was a man of few words with me. He loved me but didn’t really say it. His caring for me was ever present. His children and children in general were his life’s work, though I don’t think he thought much about his life’s work or if he did he didn’t tell me. My father was great in an emergency. In crisis. He was born to it, experienced many, but led by example. Now more than ever is the time to ponder our actions in relation to a big fire and how our actions, our words, our beings impact and affect ourselves and others. 

Imagine a Time…….

Imagination is what humans have and do naturally. We make pictures and sometimes video clips in our heads. In these coronavirus times, our school organizations are tasked with imagining and then planning for re-opening and redesigning the ways children attend and learn in schools. Our challenges are many and they reside in the space between our imaginations and what we actually learn and are able to do or implement come August 2020. 

This post is less a detailed plan…. It’s an imagination and may help us think about the emergent future in ways that can help us all – educators, support staff, families and children work together to meet the challenge created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Imagine a time when some families will choose to learn in the stay at home independent learning model until there is greater understanding of the health issues of coming to school.

Imagine a time when children learn by coming to school two or three days a week for shorter periods of time than usual school days and then learn at home online and in other ways on the days they are not attending school in person.

Imagine a time when children come to school and when they enter they are screened for health issues and have to wear masks. When they attend learning sessions and classes with less students and social-distanced in both outside and inside learning environments.

Imagine a time when parents, teachers, and children are communicating in new ways and much more often than they used to in normal school days.

Imagine a time when educators, support staff, families, and children realize that we all have to work together (collaborate) by being much more flexible and innovative in creating ways to learn and be safe that work for every child and educator.

Imagine a time when planning and resources need to be allocated carefully so that families and children who already struggle to have equitable access to learning and safety are even more challenged by these corona times.

Imagine a time when families, children, and educators have more choice and more personalizable educational opportunities.

Imagine a time when we find new ways for children to enjoy and learn from social interactions with their friends.

Imagine a time when children play in new ways.

Imagine a time when the arts and freedom of expression are prioritized.

Imagine a time when children get what they need to survive, be resilient and ultimately THRIVE.

Imagine a time when all the people in the community find some peace and the ability to care for themselves, each other, and all children.

Imagine a time when patience, acceptance, empathy, character, courage, and a call to action and learning are the norms.

Imagine a time when children have joy in their lives.

Imagine a time when being outside and learning outside is more healthy and better for learning.

Imagine a time when hope rules.

Imagine a time when the pandemic is over and we have learned to educate children better than we did before the pandemic.

Imagine a time when the role-job-vocation of teaching is more valued and understood than ever before.

Imagine a time that values families, parents, children, and the elderly more than before the pandemic.

Imagine a time when imagination rules.

Imagine a time when creativity is deeply valued and developed.

Imagine a time when caring is the main thing.