When we don’t think about the systems inwhich individuals live we organize without thoughtful, continuous review. We build boxes, we put them in neat rows and towers. But when one box falls, so do the rest. Covid either dented, tore, or broke all of our boxes in education. So now what?
“Reorganization to me is shuffling boxes, moving boxes around. Transformation means that you’re really fundamentally changing the way the organization thinks, the way it responds, the way it leads. It’s a lot more than just playing with boxes.” Louis Gerstner, Jr.
As things in education and elsewhere have been taking a serious hit we have been watching carefully at the interconnectedness of “all the things” impacted by Covid.
The best analogy for everything we are seeing in this moment is the box and its absolute inability to hold us captive much longer.
- We have typically seen mid-upper management relocate continuously to areas where there are good schools. With more telecommute roles locking in great leadership, will destination of relocation matter? Or will we see families move where they want (instead of where their job takes them)? If they do relocate based on desire not opportunity will they opt for homeschool/fun-school/pod school options to circumvent access to highly rated public schools?
- Now more than ever middle class families are acknowledging that socialization offered at school is key, but they question what and more importantly how their kids are learning. As they leave in record numbers to opt into flexible education options, will they come back to their neighborhood schools?
- Grade levels have often made little sense beyond the organization of students. We know kids actually learn better in multiage settings. Will we finally question how kids are sorted and organized?
- Families are seeing what learning happens first hand in classrooms. For many they are amazed at the depth, purpose, and engagement that is achieved when teachers facilitate rich learning experiences. For others they are unimpressed with the didactic instruction without student-driven application. Parents agree the lack of real engagement is not the fault of the teacher, rather those whom are responsible for the continual development of teacher skills. Will families finally get loud about learning that matters?
- Will teachers realize they have plenty of economic opportunity outside of traditional school to engage, teach, and support the children they are driven to educate? Will the way they have been treated in 2020 drive them to new, flexible opportunities which our traditional education systems are unable to compete with?
- Test scores have had a declining value for some time. With schools being in limbo and test- focused preparation sporadic, will we finally say they are a waste of money? Will we finally acknowledge that they really tell us very little about the quality of learning experiences happening in our schools? Scores are expected to be invalid for some time because of COVID. What will we do when they hold no value?
- Standards help to set a baseline for what all students should know and be able to do. They have never been the end-all, be-all of education. They have focused on the what not the how. Will there be new, more formidable options for students to demonstrate mastery at their own pace? Will we notice the inability of an A-F system to capture the learning of our students equitably? And will we finally notice the ridiculously competitive nature of those systems and the consequences they have had for our kids?
We have placed our kids in boxes that the education system has built, and staked high. Our boxes have had some purpose, albeit through grades, standardized assessments, grade levels, and more. Today we question if they have really had meaning for kids, or if those boxes were all along created to add organization and comfort to adults.
Our students and families are seeing the inflexibility of our system and wondering if there is a better way to educate our kids.
In the upcoming years there will be opportunities for education that we have never seen before. Those opportunities will not fit into an already existing policy box, age box, or oversight box.
Our tower of boxes that have held up our public education systems for so long has finally toppled over. Will we get out the duct tape and try to make it stand again? Or will the demise of school as we have known it be another legacy of COVID?
It is time to transform, in big ways that make use of this moment.
So if you’re driving all of your energy towards putting those boxes back into nice stacks and rows, consider putting your energy elsewhere.
This moment will change everything.
Will you be a designer or a receiver of what comes next?
Your answer is important.