Let’s Create a New Normal in Schools

Schools have struggled to meet the needs of students while the world watched this past year and it has been painful to watch. However, pain is an excellent (although not ideal) teacher. Let’s create a new normal in schools if we want to rebuild and be better.

I am a mother first…

As an educator and mother of three, I have always felt that school is a necessary tool to support my children’s success and overall well being in life. As mom who simply wants the very best for my children, I have come to realize the importance of not placing all my eggs in one basket.

The world pressures parents, especially Black parents, to do whatever it takes to provide our kids a “good education” as a key to a better life. While useful, this perspective is ineffective in light of the current state of the educational system. It misrepresents the role of education in providing your child with the tools to live their best life. This is another reason to create a new normal in schools.

This is not to “throw shade,” at schools. Much of the time in my career has been devoted to helping people educate themselves to better living. I have accomplished this goal by working on or in schools for years. I don’t regret this investment.

I just believe that now is the time to acknowledge the universal call to transform schools and our approach to learning, and education . The world and its people are always going through something. Schools and education seem to either suffer or benefit from blaming the latest community or global catastrophe for its challenges and shortcomings instead of identifying these as opportunities for growth.

There may always be challenges…

The latest catastrophe to be blamed for school shortcomings is the COVID-19 virus. Now, don’t get me wrong, it really did a whammy on schools. I have watched as families fell apart trying to fill in the gaps between their needs and available resources when it comes to childcare, food, and academic development in light of mandatory school closings. Many families depend on schools to provide these services.

Let's Create a New Normal in Schools
Young students participating in a traditional classroom.

While many seem to agonize over the loss of face-to-face schooling, I find it imperative to look at what this tells us about our society and how we can improve. 

Many of the student struggles and knowledge gaps which came to light in 2020 were inaccurately attributed to not being able to physically sit in classrooms to be educated and supported, when those deficits in knowledge and learning were actually there all along. Like cockroaches scurrying when the light comes on or a piece of furniture is moved, they startle us and make us uncomfortable, but they were always there – hidden.

Is this new?

Before 2020, many students were sitting in classrooms being overlooked, feeling left out and lost, distracting themselves by playing with friends, and often being socially promoted year after year. Without the school building to cover, the lack of mastery, proficiency, and good old-fashioned understanding was exposed.

As we think about the coming school year, let’s ask ourselves, “Do we want to cover the cockroaches again?” Do we want to allow the deficits in knowledge, skills, and aptitude to be hidden again? Do we want to sacrifice our children’s potential on the altar of normalcy?

Our only option for avoiding this sacrifice is to create a new normal in schools. We can lie to ourselves, but we can’t unring the bell heard around the world the past year and a half. After all, we can’t unsee what we’ve seen. Nor can we unknow what we know. All that is left is to choose whether or not to be honest with ourselves as we move forward.

Only time will tell in undeniable terms what we have chosen. I am here if you need help figuring out your next steps.

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