We made it! Our students this year will truly be a part of history. Not since the Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918, have schools in Ontario closed in the manner and for the length of time that they have this year. To say that this school closure tested the mettle of everyone (students, parents and staff) would surely be an understatement. But this is what resiliency is all about. Dealing with problems and finding potential solutions to at least survive, if not even thrive!
When the history books are written on this time (and they will be), everyone involved will be able to reflect on this experience. History is all too often an abstract concept: how do you understand something that happened 100 years ago? Well, we now have insight into how history happens and how it affects people!
Students – we appreciated the willingness of so many of you to try an entirely new style of learning. While it may have been a challenge for some, almost every student attempted online to some degree, and some truly demonstrated extraordinary success. Rather than your teacher standing in front of the class, Google Meets and phone calls became the norm for teacher contact. Learning to use technology, such as Google Drive, to its fullest became something you were able to do. The skills and knowledge you have gained through this experience will be with you for the rest of your schooling and in life beyond.
Parents and guardians – we appreciated the time, energy and effort all of you put forth to support your child(ren). I spoke with many of you over the course of these 3 months and I know what you put into supporting your kids – whether that be academic, social, physical, or mental health supports. Many staff in the school have kids of our own and we have great empathy for how difficult it is to academically support your own children. I happily shared my experiences with my own children. “Dad. Can you help me with quadratic equations?” asked my grade 10 son. If Mrs. Lowell (who teaches high school Math) is reading this post, I apologize for the many Math misunderstandings I have given my son. “Dad. Can you help me with bonds in Chemistry?” asked my grade 12 daughter. Seriously? Grade 12 Chemistry?
Staff – we appreciated your pivoting to online learning in the span of 2 weeks. While it was not always the easiest (few staff members had organized their own Google Meets and ScreenCastify was new ground for almost all of us), we got there. Engaging and supporting students via video or telephone conference was an entirely new experience and getting overdue work was more than a bit problematic. We tell our students on a regular basis that, “You never stop learning.” and never was that more true this year!
Yet, out of this HAS come great things. We all have a more in depth understanding of the technology available and how it can support students and further our teaching. I have talked to numerous teachers who told me that they have never had this much contact with parents and guardians and that this relationship building has been a wonderful thing. Many of our students have gained confidence in their ability to learn online and know that they can be successful in this way. So much of school is figuring out how you learn best and developing the tools to be successful.
While it may not have been the school year we were hoping for we can be proud of the resiliency we have shown and willingness to problem solve to find solutions.