This year has been quite the ride for everyone, and certainly a whirlwind for parents with school-aged kids. While political woes were expected due to it being an election year, no one expected a global health pandemic with national community divides on top of that. For most people, there has been a great deal of required adaptation to new norms of living, but parents and students have had to undertake a much greater adaptation–school during a pandemic.
Conversations surrounding the future of learning and access to education and creating equitable opportunities not only seem more relevant, but also very realistic as we move forward. This summer, families and governments faced questions–a lot of them. With health and safety concerns, and access to tools for virtual learning have been at the forefront for moving forward, the big question was “How?”
Adjusting and Re-adjusting to Learning Needs
The Answer: Micro-Schools. We are seeing that many traditional schools can’t adjust to the needs around them, and that the outdated one-size-fits-all assembly line model of most schools needs to flex, hopefully, permanently. As we get the school year started, many families have invested their energies to design micro-schools, nano pods or whatever name we have for the small schools that are being created to provide an option to large schools’ remote and disjointed learning this fall.
Families are gathering to support their kids during the pandemic. Ideally, this intense parent engagement won’t end when traditional schools return to face-to-face learning. As we look at our offerings, it’s vital to bring equity and access into the conversation, and it is the hope that these challenging times could inspire innovations and changes that were needed long before anyone had heard of CO-VID 19.
Benefits of Micro-Schools
The term micro-school may be new to some, but the concept of a small school is relatively easy to understand. Every family and student has needs and preferences that are very unique to them. Some families choose to have those needs addressed in traditional schools. The micro-schooling approach, however, is an option that can improve outcomes for students who can benefit from the extra support or more of a voice in their learning.
While the benefits of micro-schooling are on-going, there are three that come to mind, including:
- Lowering dropout rates.
- Building trust between teachers and students.
- Focusing on interests and passions.
We all learn best when it’s something that we’re interested in, and these benefits could be even more important to our disenfranchised learners of color and students with special needs. Equity and access means doing school differently and with more emphasis on the individual humans we have in our classrooms.
Moving Forward into the Future and Back to “Normal”
There is a lot of hope that one day, ideally in the near future, we all get to go back to what we knew as normal life prior to the pandemic. However, there are some things that must change. It would be best if what we learn now changes the face of education forever, that we address our graduation rate until all succeed, that we create more public choice schools to meet the demand, and that we address and tackle mental health needs. Additionally, there is hope that we get out of our silos of subjects and become interdisciplinary and rethink the system repeatedly for the foreseeable future.
As we continue to learn through the challenges we are facing, we should also consider the impact of empathy and compassion towards one another and how that impacts students. With so many contrasting perspectives in the world, health and safety, especially for students, should be a priority. We need to create norms, such as wearing masks, that are based on care and kindness and not militant. Being cared for in a supportive micro-school can translate to decreasing hate crimes.
Leading with Hope
It is clear that our school systems and how kids can learn is shifting. Although there are constant challenges, there is also the opportunity to improve how we approach teaching students and finding ways that work best for them. There is still work to be done in how to continue to support underserved populations and provide equitable access for all of our learners.
If you’re finding yourself thinking, “I need to do this in my school,” there is something you can do about it. Explore how you can create/support educational change where you are. We are the ones to ensure we create classrooms where each student is seen, heard, valued and thriving, and for that, we need you. Let’s go out and reach every student today.