Every store has a sign asking us to wear masks. Not everyone does. Every school has an expectation that parents/families wear masks at drop-off. Not everyone does. Every public health expert is saying, “wear a mask.” Not everyone does. And through it all we are in fact setting an example.
Almost twenty years ago Elliott Eisner wrote about the hidden curriculum, describing it as those habits, beliefs, skills, and aptitudes that are taught implicitly though rules, policies, structures, practices, etc., in our schools. At the time he was talking about things like compliance and expectations that are rarely taught but always expected.
Today that hidden curriculum has a whole new meaning.
Because today, we are facing a pandemic. And how we handle ourselves during that pandemic is teaching our kids a whole slew of lessons. But it is time to remember that all of our actions in response to COVID-19 are setting an example, whether we mean them to or not.
And in case you forgot, you are currently setting an example.
In today’s news we see surges of positive cases surfacing throughout our communities. We see one report arguing for more strict guidelines, while we see another arguing for fewer. We see data skewed, data corrected, data deleted, and data resurrected. We hear elected officials pontificating about the importance of being in school; at the same time we are seeing emerging discussions that test scores for students that are 100% virtual may actually be higher compared to their in-person peers.
We hear state leaders mandating that schools and districts work with their local health department leadership; at the same time we see schools and districts dismissing the advice and counsel of those trained medical professionals.
The important thing for all of us to realize, is the power of the message we are sending to children.
Because our children are watching. They are seeing us dismiss the counsel of medical professionals. They are seeing us bicker in the most unkind of ways. They are seeing us be swayed by opinion more so than science. They are seeing our loud and privileged wants.
The question we all need to answer is this: Do we really want our kids to learn these lessons?
Yes, we are in a pandemic and things are crazy. Yes, we are in a pandemic and there is no perfect answer. Yes, we are in a state of chaos where everyone wants to argue.
And, yes we all want our kids back in school. And, yes we all crave normal. And, yes we are all going stir crazy. And, yes every teacher I know around the globe is overwhelmed, tired, and fried with their current workload in response to COVID-19.
And, yes there are those who are actively modeling for their children and community that trained public health officials aren’t to be listened to.
The lessons our kids walk away with this year are going to plentiful. It is hard to live through a pandemic, and it is hard to lead through a pandemic. But now more than ever we need to consider what our kids are learning from our choices and our voices.
And while we could say that success is all about compromise, that may be our own excuse for doing what will win the short game (rather than the long haul).
Our public health officials are being beat up and their guidance is being spit out. At a time when we can argue until the proverbial cows come home about the accuracy of that guidance, the problem lies in the fact that we have come to a point as adults where we chose politics over expertise, and personal wants over collective good.
Regardless of the adult induced chaos of COVID-19, when making educational decisions please think about the example you are setting for our kids.
Because they are watching.
And just in case you forgot (again), you are currently setting an example.
Jody is a former educator and current advisor to educational organizations. She is a known advocate for education and children, and writes about her experiences as a teacher, professor, leader, community advocate, researcher, and parent. Follow her work online at jodybritten.com.