What is essential in education?

As we, in New York, now know that we are not going to see our students face to face until September at the earliest, I think it is the perfect time to reflect on what we do as educators. Distance learning will cause some fundamental changes in how we teach our students, but we have to ensure we are focusing on the positive changes to what we do, not just the fads.

In essentialism, Greg McKeown defines essentialism as, “less but better.” We do a lot in our classrooms, not all of it better. We have started to see politicians make grand pronouncements about what they think education should look like going forward. As Mr. McKeown states, “we can either make the hard choices for ourselves or allow others . . . to decide for us.”

My first draft of what I think are essential to education is this:

  • Passion – we have to help children identify what they are passionate about and use that to personalize their learning.
  • Empowerment – we have to empower students to take control of their own learning, which means we have to give up control.
  • Inquiry – we have to help students understand that life is about asking questions not about having all the answers. 
  • Understanding – we need to help students truly understand and be able to apply what they learn to novel situations.

That’s my short list. I realize that these are four very broad ideas. However, I think they are a good start. I would love to hear what you think about how pandemic learning can change what we do for the better. Please answer one or more of the questions below or make your own list of essentials in education in the comments.

How will distance learning change what we do permanently? What do you think is essential in education? What are the core values we should be using to guide what we do in classrooms across America?

One thought on “What is essential in education?

  1. Brian, I hope you and the family are well. I guess when I first heard that my own kids would be moving to “distance learning,” I had pictured them virtually attending classes daily. As if they were still in schoool. 730 am you are on your laptop, tablet, computer, phone, etc and you are in English class attentive and participating in what is being taught with a teacher there available to answer, and so on each half hour for each class you normally attend. What we are looking at now, at least here, is a far cry from classes. Part of me says that I should be fair because this was thrust upon everyone and these things take time to put in place. Part of me says that we are in May and for months we heard that distance learning plans were in place. Going forward if we are to remain in virtual classes I want to see my kids sitting in on classes. If we are sending the kids back to school, which is less likely now that kids are becoming gravely I’ll too, then packing them into classrooms like sardines has to be reevaluated. Do schools go to A/B days with alternating online and in person days to lessen the number of kids in a class? Do we go to AM/PM models? Do older kids do online class rooms and we spread the younger kids out in classrooms? Too many decisions to be made for next year and judging by distance “learning” I am looking at on the High school side I hope they are taking time to discuss and change things.
    Stay well

    Liked by 1 person

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