Entry 9 -October 27th
The purpose of schools is often under debate. Should young people become educated in order to enter the workforce and contribute to society or is it more about gaining a foundation that is focused on social, cultural and intellectual development, so students can become engaged citizens? Can’t it be both? Can’t we want students to enter the workforce and want them to become socially engaged citizens who challenge the status quo?
Regularly missing in this debate is all the non-academic ways in which schools help children become who they are. The teams they join, the instruments they play, the friends they make. Students can gain so much confidence in the activities they choose to pursue. Students may join the yearbook club and learn about deadlines and design. Students that are elected to student council learn to use their communication skills to organize and lead. Most of the activities that are seen as “extra” right now have been postponed or greatly reduced.
Collaboration in general is currently reduced or missing from our schools. Teachers who are used to working together have had to limit their contact, and may find themselves working alone. Students who were used to gathering together to study or work on projects, have found themselves isolated.
According to Sabrina Gates: “Collaborative learning has been shown to not only develop higher-level thinking skills in students, but boost their confidence and self-esteem as well” (Gates, 2018).
How do we promote collaboration, and learning from others, when that, to some degree, has been limited? The Coronavirus has reduced our ability to enjoy social events such as dances, plays and International Night. Many team sports have been cancelled and collaborating with others in person has also been severely limited. How do we promote team building, when there are no teams?
The power of collective capacity is that it enables ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things—for two reasons. One is that knowledge about effective practice becomes more widely available and accessible on a daily basis. The second reason is more powerful still—working together generates commitment” (Fullan, 2013).
Schools can provide students with much more than intellectual endeavours. Schools can teach us about bullying, about how important it is not to be a bystander and how to navigate friendships through the years. Schools can teach us about the importance of being physically active and how to prepare nutritionally balanced meals. Students participating in the production of a play can deepen valuable skills like communication, problem solving, creativity, and it can develop a sense of confidence in their abilities. Without these aspects to school, we have narrowed the focus of what a school and schooling is.
Collaboration of course can still be done virtually, but there is no doubt that we may miss important lessons by not socializing and working together in person. To offset this loss, we can remind ourselves of the importance of being safe and knowing that what we do now can have an impact on our lives in the future. Staying safe must be our number one focus right now, but this too shall end. There will eventually be a vaccine, and we may be in a position to resume some of our normal activities.
We have been forced to be creative and innovate during this difficult time which teaches our students resiliency. We may continue to use some of these innovations long after the epidemic ends. Let’s hope that when we do get back to some sense of normalcy, that we do not take for granted the all the opportunities that schools can provide.
Fullan. M. (2013). The new pedagogy: Students and teachers as learning partners. Learning Landscapes, 6(2), 23-28.
Gates, S., 2018. Benefits of Collaboration. National Education Association. https://www.nea.org/professional-excellence/student-engagement/tools-tips/benefits-collaboration