"Academic Content Is Secondary to Thinking Skills"
|Above copied from Portland Press Herald
In the health sector, protective equipment for healthcare and grocery workers is a must. We can lament about how much testing is lagging behind cases, but we really should realize that we must attend first to the dire need of protecting those who are in the front line. If we cannot even provide masks for these workers, how could we even talk about testing?
A similar exercise in prioritization is necessary for the education sector. In education, communication is first priority. If we cannot even communicate, how can we even imagine continuity in learning. In any crisis, our mental well being is at risk. Most of us have lost our usual daily schedules. Everything is not normal and amid this chaos, we are in need of something that is familiar, something that is expected, something that looks like a schedule. These are the most important needs of a child whose school has been closed for a month now. The expectations are not the same as those we hold dear during normal times. The standards of learning we have before the pandemic are not even close to what is necessary at this point. The expectations may actually appear even less challenging. "Academic content is secondary to thinking skills." Indeed, these may be less challenging than asking a child to solve an arithmetic problem involving fractions, but the lessons these times demand are much more meaningful.
Pender Makin mentions that "Teachers, counselors and social workers, school staff members and administrators are available to support you and your children, so please reach out as needed - communication between families and schools is more important now than ever." Unfortunately, our school district, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), has miserably failed in this regard during this week. FCPS started its first day of distance learning after four weeks of schools being closed with its main platform of communication, Blackboard, crashing. FCPS hopes to restart it next week. The frustration is highlighted in this post by the Fairfax Education Association:
Fairfax Education Association
Pender does remind us that teachers have "literally reinvented their practice overnight". Poe Middle School shares this video with all of its students.
"No matter the digital learning platform's limitations" should ring louder. FCPS unfortunately dropped the ball by relying on one avenue for communication. We must return to our correct set of priorities. The teachers are ready and willing to reach out. The FCPS administration is not. It is no wonder FCPS cannot navigate through more serious problems such as achievement gaps and under-representation of poor and minority children in its advanced academic programs. These times show us that FCPS cannot even provide communication. One wonders how FCPS could even know how many children are left behind in this pandemic.