Earlier this week, I watched a news report about a mother and her concerns that her autistic son was not getting the support he needed during this time of stay at home learning. She was very specific about her concerns of the time needed to complete assignments, aligning her son’s work with teacher expectations and overall support for her son. Her tone was not upset but very direct, her concern and agitation was evident.
I really appreciated the response from the school system, specifically the assistant superintendent who gave a clear, strong message that all of her concerns were heard and that everything would be done to make sure her son was successful – he even used the term ‘personalize’ to describe the work, effort and attention that would go towards helping her and her son. I believed him when he said they would give this mom and her son a unique approach to solutions and support. We are all doing what we can, to the best of our ability. To me, his message was direct, assuring and genuine
His message did make me reflect on hearing other similar messages from district administrators about the same thing, often proactively, giving parents all the assurance they can that the work and evaluation will be secondary. Showing flexibility now is critical to everyone’s peace of mind – that is something we need now more than ever. As educators, we know that and live that – students first! But the notion that work has to be done and if not, horrible failure will follow, is a looming feeling we have a hard time getting around. And for some if we don’t get the work done right or at a high level, that reflects poorly on families. This is one opportunity we have now in this crisis – we can let go of these outdated thinkings and embrace real learner-centered beliefs that truly benefit learners but hold sustainable value whether we are in experiencing a crisis or its a ‘normal’ school day [whatever that is].
We’ve talked about the problems of factory schoolhouse model or the one-classroom practices that are still in existence today. How we were taught CANNOT be the standard for how we design learning today. One of the biggest problems with them is the rigidity of practice, work, expectation, and output. This inflexibility causes anxiety and panic, particularly for parents/adults who were taught this way not wanting the same limitation for their own child[ren]. If our families really believed, from day one, that flexibility and understanding were part of our mission and vision and beliefs, when a crisis develops, they wouldn’t ask if there would be flexibility, they would more likely breathe easy knowing it was there.
As we are all doing our best to make adjustments during this incredible time, we can, and should, always be reflective about changes we can make in our practice based on lessons learned. I truly hope we are drawing our real need to connect with one another and be attentive to what’s really important. One stand out for me is how different our work and our learners’ approach to that work would be if we involved more elements of personalized learning. In The Revolution, we talk about the power of flexing how students access information and demonstrate their knowledge. These are means of empowerment and truly shows families we take into consideration their circumstance and needs. We can focus on these points whether we are in a digital/non-digital learning environment. These two ideas [of many] scratch the surface of PL but they start very interesting conversations about positive effect learner-centered planning can have.
I am praying for schools, families and communities. Please be safe, be healthy and be a blessing to someone.