Back to School-Building values and expectations

Guest post by Sanam Edwards @ReviewMirrorEdu 

In countries such as India, the pandemic rages on while mass vaccination camps safeguard a giant populace that would not be able to access lifesaving amenities. In other parts of the world, individuals are ditching masks and experiencing the joy of human interaction again. Schools across the globe are altering paradigms and thought processes as the new session in 2021 beckons.

In lockdown or out, it cannot be refuted that this year brings with it certain challenges and opportunities. Facilitators have imbibed the strength that came from teaching during an immensely challenging year. Likewise, school leadership has had cause to reflect on practices during the pandemic and how they must transform going forward.

The three primary stakeholders who need to get on board with managing values and expectations are the students, parents, teachers, along with management.

When we speak of values considered essential, they may now differ from person to person. For example, an individual who has gone through immense loss inflicted by Covid 19 could be grounded in resilience and fortitude of strength. Students who battled with virtual classes and emerged victorious exemplify the value of perseverance. It is up to educators to make sure that each child reflects on and develops values that they deem critical. We have always fostered inquiry and experiential-based learning in our classrooms, and we need to do the same for reflection regarding values we prefer to work on.

These values impact our outlooks of schools and relationships fostered by the stakeholders. When we look at the expectations of a school, the ensuing statements may be raised-

While all the above have been encompassed within curriculum for most schools in the past year, the fundamental way we function has altered. While co-curricular subjects have been on offer, teachers did not execute them on a field or in grand halls within a school. The teaching staff has been more involved with their students this year than possibly ever before, even though we never met our students in person. Institutions have ensured that learners have a platform to collaborate, learn and gain from schooling even though brick and mortar structures no longer brought us together. The way that young ones are being prepared for life ahead is through developing survive-and-thrive skills.

The stakeholders in education are obliged to recognize that the need of the hour is to focus on building values. Social and Emotional Learning has played a crucial role in urging students to persevere through hard times of loss and adjustment. The values that we want to infuse in our children have transcended the four walls of homes and need to be taught explicitly in every facet of life. Traditional values such as duty, working hard, and following authority without question have been replaced by resilience, self-care, and cultivating an inquiry spirit. Whenever I introspect on what we are teaching our students, there is a glaring disparity in what we used to emphasize in a pre-pandemic era.

We need to modify our expectations of what we require from parents, students, and teachers. Parents have lifted a heavy load while supporting their children during virtual classes, which has bolstered my belief that they are vital cogs in the education system. If parents can be encouraged to participate in the daily learning process, the children can explicitly see the benefits. Students have worked hard to alter the fabric of the way they learn and need continual inspiration to build inner skills that will help them power through adversity. These skills are modelled by teachers who are in the same boat, facing challenges and overcoming them through perseverance. 

While each stakeholder in the education sector deals with unique challenges, stress produces cracks in the system. While it seems counterintuitive to lower expectations, it may generate happier states of mind and unexpected joy when things work out. In a broken system rebuilt again during a dangerous pandemic, there are learning curves at every crossroads. Nobody proclaims themselves to be perfect, and the trajectory of improvement is on the rise.

Even when we go back to school buildings, the experiences of the ‘Covid Generation’ will not be forgotten. They will need care and a sense of nurturing even though they display the traits of strength and resilience. Our expectations of classrooms going back to normal are based on a fallacy. It is up to all stakeholders to embrace the new normal and encourage our students to prosper. We cannot go back to alienating parents from the learning process or separate curriculum from SEL. Teachers and parents must work together for the well being of the students. Relationships forged from need are now based on mutual trust and understanding, and we must not lose the base we have established for the well being of everyone involved in the schooling process.

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