The Future of Education in Alabama Will Be Brighter If We Embrace the Lessons of This Challenging Year

Source: OECD – Global Education at a Glance 2020

Take a minute to look at this infographic. Do you find yourself nodding and perhaps silently saying “Yes!” as you reflect on your own experiences?

If so, here’s a question for you: What can we do to encourage more school systems to match the description?

Maybe one answer is to embrace what we are learning as all of us live through this pandemic.

We’re learning that . . .

Seat time is not as important as engaged learning time.

The flipped version of learning can provide more flexibility to students, who can learn on their own time and at their own pace.

Differentiated instruction might be easier than we thought as we become adept at putting students in breakout rooms on Zoom and other platforms.

We all have a role to play in the education of kids – from parents and teachers learning Schoology beside students, to the child nutrition worker working hard to ensure that children eat safely and nutritiously, to the principals, APs and coaches supporting the flow of learning.

Our own skills are expanding

We are becoming more nimble, focusing on the main thing: the safety and intellectual and emotional well-being of students and those who serve them. More than ever, we are learning that a degree of autonomy is critically important as teachers perform in the dual role of onsite and virtual teacher, and as administrators adjust and adapt daily to rapidly evolving circumstances.

Teachers and administrators are collaborating more than ever, understanding that together they can more effectively respond to student needs. Rather than working in isolation, teachers are tapping into the expertise of others and sharing their own. Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, and web-based resources abound with recommendations of apps, strategies, and protocols teachers can use to hook and engage their students.

These developments are the “silver lining” of Covid-19. My hope is that when a reliable vaccine is developed and we can once again more broadly engage with others, we’ll not revert to the schooling of the past, but instead continue to innovate and empower students to even higher levels of learning.

That’s my vision for the future, as more and more Alabama schools and districts resemble the characteristics described in the OECD infographic.

I know it’s a vision many of you share. Forward, together!

Cathy Gassenheimer is Executive Vice President of the Alabama Best Practices Center, a program of the A+ Education Partnership.