Weighed down

Posted: November 10, 2021 in Education, Uncategorized

We have heard many times over the past two years: these are unprecedented times and a pandemic puts things into perspective, but what has been even more surprising is how fast we seem to forget the toll or the true weight of what has really been happening.

Over the past two school years, we have been asked to pivot, to show compassion, to adapt, and to change. People trumpeted learning loss, mental health, accessibility, and learning transformation. But as this school year rolls forward, one thing is clear; we are trying to forget the pandemic ever happened. 

Schools are rushing to “go back to normal”: to bring back extracurricular activities, traditional schedules, exams, and regular classes. Learning rhythms have increased, expectations have risen, and past teaching practices are being restored. 

As much as we became concerned about mental health, balance, and well-being; our concerns quickly went out the window the closer we got to the ability of adopting a pre-pandemic organization. Some schools still offer hybrid models, some quadmesters, some alternating weeks or days between schedules; there is no standard to a school schedule. Yet another standard has taken hold: bring back what we were used to. It didn’t matter if equity, accessibility, and diversity were concerns raised in the spring of 2020. Guess what? They are magically no longer an issue. 

In education, we had a golden opportunity to fully address and learn from the areas our system was not efficient, and yet, we revert as quickly as possible to the “old ways” because it is easier.

Who is caught in the crossfire?

Students. Students who have so much added pressure to perform and learn under conditions that are so unfavourable to success. Students who have to fend for themselves as they are constantly told they are not resilient enough and that they do not meet expectations. Students who have to navigate a system and a world still representative of realities belonging to an era of pre-technology. 

Who else?

Educators. Educators who have incredible amounts of pressure put on them to adapt to various changing systems in short amounts of time. Educators who are told they should be doing extracurriculars because students need them and the stability of their jobs depended on it. Educators who cannot talk about mental health because they will be treated as weak or broken. 

As a society, we value and celebrate those who work themselves to unimaginable lengths. We expect hours of extra work, constant positivity, constant transformation, constant feedback, more paperwork, and then chastise those who find it hard to leave their work at work. In television and in reality, we propagate the need for doctors, lawyers, entrepreneurs, and so many more to work 60-80 hour weeks because that is the only way to be efficient and show dedication. We push and push until limits break, and then we wonder why mental health has been a growing concern in the past decade. 

So as we continue to be weighed down, as educators and workers; as we keep asking for more, I can assure you that I have no idea how I can give more. I have given up on so many hours of rest and relaxation, I have sacrificed so many hours of family time, I have stopped socializing with friends because time needs to be spent on grading and planning, I have abandoned the pursuit of passion projects because I am constantly told: put students first, make things work.

I am tired of educators being told they are not enough because they can’t keep a system that refuses to change afloat. I am tired of being told that we are not enough because we voice our opinions or opposing viewpoints on poor decisions. I am tired of being told that we are not enough because we don’t fit in the box that people so desperately hold on to. I am tired of being told that well-being is key when it is clearly not. 

One thing is sure: the weight and the pressure will remain as long as people stay quiet and complacent. We will remain feeling weighed down.

The question then needs to be asked: how many amazing people are we willing to sacrifice because keeping a system as it is, is easier and more important than trying to put humanity and dignity first?

On May 25th, I became fully aware of how racism is still very present to this day. A disturbing video surfaced, flooding every social media I had: Instagram, Tik Tok, Snapchat and Twitter. As you have probably seen in this video reaching millions of views, a 46 year old Africain- American man named George Floyd was pinned to the ground under the knee of a white police officer for several minutes unable to breathe. Watching this man be detained with unnecessary force by the authorities made me feel anger. I saw him lose his life with my own eyes on my screen. In broad daylight, the city of Minneapolis and the world, myself included, erupted when seeing this injustice unfold.

  • Why did he need to be pinned to the ground under the knee of a police officer if he was already handcuffed and face down on the street?
  • How did the other officers standing around not step in to correct and remove him from kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck and tell him that that technique was unacceptable?

I am left to believe everyone becomes aware of racism being present in our world at different times in their lives. Some will stay in denial about the subject forever. Others can’t open their minds to it as they are wrapped up in their families beliefs and ideologies. The rest will go through some life experiences like college, or finding a new friend group and this might unlock a part of reality they never knew existed. This incident that should’ve never happened changed something in me. I began researching about this movement called Black Lives matter. I couldn’t fathom how this was not the first time an innocent Black Americain was killed by a white authority, but there were many stories. Every year from the first of February to the first of March is Black History Month. I encourage everyone to take the time and educate themselves on the history of Black people. There are so many incidents we have all turned a blind eye to, information we refuse to acknowledge. Many resources are available to teach the forgotten past of these people, as this website is a great starting point for anyone looking to inform themselves on these cruel injustices. https://blacklivesmatter.com.

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought many negative impacts, but also many positive ones. One of them being the time to reflect on ourselves and our surroundings. In today’s society, we are constantly rushing and running everywhere. As students, we’re going to school, doing our homework, studying and working. As for teachers, they are expected to teach, plan their next lessons, while correcting their student’s multiple assignments all night long. It never ends! Well, actually, it does, when we retire. And don’t get me wrong, I do think education and work is important, I just came to realize that maybe we over do it. Maybe we don’t live our lives to the fullest and wait until we’re old to start enjoying ourselves. 

For the past year, I’ve been reflecting on life and my future; what are the things that make me happy and who do I want to become? I’ve realized that going back to the essentials, interacting with people, and living in the moment, without the stress from our daily life, are things that truly make me happy. And honestly, I don’t think I’m the only one. 

I think this whole reflection started when I went to Europe a few years ago. Remember the times we were able to travel the world? Yeah… I miss those times too! I remember walking in the streets of Paris after dinner, the patios were full of Parisians drinking either a cup of coffee, drinking a glass of wine or smoking a cigarette with friends. This happened every…single…night! Since that experience, I’ve always admired that lifestyle. No, not the alcohol nor the cigarettes… #Notmyjam. But more specifically, I admire them for taking the time to see the people they love on weeknights, every night! Their smiles and laughs demonstrated their gratitude towards these small little moments. That’s the kind of lifestyle that I want to live!

Therefore, this experience made me realize what the true meaning of “Life is short” really means. Life is truly short: it goes by extremely fast. It feels like yesterday I was starting high school and here I am four months away from graduation #Covidgrad. This made me conclude that I need to take more time to enjoy my life and be grateful for the little things, since everything goes by TOO quickly. 

“Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you will look back and realize they were big things.” -Kurt Vonnegut

It might sound corny, but it’s true. And I think to this day, we still don’t realize the true meaning of life. With that being said, this rushing and running society needs to slow down a little. We feel bad and guilty when we are being “unproductive”, but sometimes, doing absolutely nothing is the most productive thing you can do. We need to live our best lives, by taking care of ourselves and taking the necessary time to accomplish our dreams. As for me, I enjoy every second I have in high school. With last year’s lockdown, I thought I might never be able to enter that building ever again. I’ve never been so grateful to be physically at school. In the last years, I’ve had the smallest but most unforgettable memories at school. Thus, the pandemic did really create some beauty among the chaos and tragedy. I hope as you are reading this, you can reflect on what you are grateful for in your everyday life and practice gratitude by living in the moment.* #Livethelittlethings #Livinginthemoment #Gratitude #Breathe

“It’s the little things in life that matter the most.” -Jackson Brown

Present And Future

I am disappointed by the lack of actions taken by the government of Canada in the fight against climate change. It is time to stop focusing just on the present and start thinking about the future. While oil and fossil fuel may currently be beneficial to the Canadien economy, since Canada is a major producer, the repercussions on the environment will have disastrous consequences in the long term. Clean and renewable energy sources are the way of the future; therefore, demand for oil and fossil fuel will decrease. 

As a lot of European countries plan to adopt clean sources of energy, the old methods of producing energy will lose value and demand. It is therefore necessary for the Canadian government to invest in renewable energy, to reduce the future economic impact on the oil and fossil fuel industry. 

In addition, oil and fossil fuel are limited materials. In other words, they are not renewable and they will eventually be exhausted. It is therefore more beneficial to slowly transition to cleaner and renewable sources of energy to avoid a sudden depletion in resources.

NEB Report: Canada Expects Slow Decline In Fossil Fuel Usage | Hart Energy

We need to change. 

Everyone must play their part in the climate crisis whether they are individuals, small businesses or large corporations. A part can be as small as using a reusable bag or avoiding single-use plastic bottles. Small changes can have a big impact in the long run. While it would help to reduce overconsumption or buy from companies that actively try to reduce their carbon footprint, I understand that these options are not always feasible for everyone. I also recognize that substituting old habits is not always easy. 

Change And Progress. 

As Charles Kettering once said, “[t]he world hates change, yet it is the only thing that has brought progress”. This quote adequately demonstrates the world’s attitude on climate change. The world refuses to change even if the climate crisis continues to worsen. Also, the advances in technology would expand progress to certain parts of the world, such as providing access to electricity through solar panels or other means to remote places. 

This is the first of many guest posts by students in my Grade 12 English class. I thank them in advance for their words, their thoughts, their courage, and their trust.

4 Tips for Building A Relationship Between School and Community | Schoology

The biggest cultural shock I have ever gone through was transitioning from an International School to a Public school.

I have lived abroad for the majority of my life. I have gone from living in Burkina Faso, Africa, where many people lived in small cement squared houses with batik fabrics as doors, to the european ways and landscapes which I cherished in Budapest. I have gone from living in an apartment in a neighborhood dotted with Ombu trees in a bustling city, to living in a dark manor-like house with high ceilings and old-style sofas. What I am saying is that although I have faced numerous cultural shocks in my life, the biggest adaptation I have undergone was changing school systems. 

Having seen the key differences in perspectives, goals and environments of an International school compared to a public school, I’ve been able to formulate two key points that define what I believe a school should embody. 

Sense of community

“ We have all known the long loneliness,

and we have found that the answer is community”

– Dorothy Day

Something I loved about International schools was how quickly you can make friends. Everyone wanted to know you. Funny enough, as I’m writing this blog, I can not remember how my first day of school went at the ASW (American School of Warsaw). I don’t remember the first friends I made or even how I made them. I just remember that warm feeling of being welcomed and approached. And from that first day, the feeling of being part of a community evolved. 

On the contrary, I remember perfectly well my first day in a public school. I remember walking down the overpopulated hallways and sitting in my first class and not speaking to anyone and also never being approached. This pushed me to be more social and intuitive, but the difficulty in making friends shocked me. At the ASW, I knew everyone in my grade and everyone knew me and even though there were “groups” the grade was so intermixed that you felt at ease and you felt part of a community, like a big family. 

So how was that possible? How did the school manage to create a community instead of a sea of individuals? I think the key was team building activities. We had these grade activities regularly where we were put into groups and asked to build a tower with only paper and tape or create a choreography or complete an obstacle race. We had to work together to achieve a certain goal and without relying on one another we could not reach it. 

We need to push people to come together as one. This is the first step to form edified, capable adults whose goals are to make the world a better place. Without love, support, and inspiration provided by a constructive community how can we, as students, be expected to become altruistic and innovative individuals?

Critical thinking 

Being able to interpret, assess and critique ideas is a necessary skill. The problem is, in public schools we are mostly taught in traditional ways. We are given information, we memorize it and we throw it all up in a test, and then we forget it. It’s a disturbing vicious circle. Although there are more non-traditional teaching methods nowadays, they should be more dominant. How can we think critically as adults if we were never pushed to do so as students? 

Here is one method to develop critical thinking skills that I learned in my International school: research. Researching is engaging; it pushes people to go deeper than just listening to a lesson in class. It teaches you efficient research methods, how to identify relevant information and main points, and how to analyze information which stirs inquiries. Once you have reached the questioning step, you are thinking critically. 

Here are some examples as to why critical thinking is an essential life skill:

  • Develops problem solving skills; strategy
  • Ensures calculated decisions 
  • Develops initiative 
  • Develops objectivity 
  • Develops researching skills

Instead of tests being the major technique of evaluation, I think research projects should be. Tests can be useful, especially in classes where some memorization is a necessity, but they don’t stir the minds of students. They don’t evoke opinions and thoughts which are incredibly important for us students to have if we want to become active and conscious members of society. Critical thinking is the number one skill that all schools should aim for.

“Children are not vessels to be filled but lamps to be lit” 

– Chinmayananda Saraswati

Do we take the time to ask them direct questions and feedback and invite them to partake in the decision-making process?

Distance learning, virtual or hybrid learning, remote teaching…all different ways that schools and education systems have had to adapt in order cater to learning during a global pandemic, during the era or Covid-19. Many will agree that learning is not meant to be completely adapted in this manner but educators have been thrown into a whirlwind they cannot always control.

As this transition and transformation has had to take place, educators, leaders, parents, and students alike, have been filled with feelings of frustration and disappointment. So many changes and so many different ways of adapting have made learning now even more difficult than before. Questions on access, equity, and ability have arisen in various districts. If they were not talked about before, they are now at the forefront of the discussion. 

With these changes, there has often been an oversight. Over the past decade, there have been many pieces of research and discussions centered around the importance of student voice, partnerships, and shared leadership. Much emphasis has been placed on dismantling the importance of maintaining a hierarchy and a vision of “leadership is more than a title” has been instilled in many regions and districts.

But I truly believe that there has been a caveat here. There was always a hidden meaning or an unintended truth that lingered about. Although it was never malicious in nature, the result of this caveat truly shared a direct message.

What distance learning has taught the education system is that: student voice, partnerships, and shared leadership are important and crucial, BUT, only when time permitted it. The danger that has presented itself recently is a reflection I offer to all districts. When decisions have to be made: how to change from in-person to hybrid or virtual, when that will happen and for how long, with what parameters, is equity ensured, what resources are available, how can districts and schools support learners, educators, parents…etc. Are educators, students, parents at the table? Do we take the time to ask them direct questions and feedback and invite them to partake in the decision-making process?

The research shows: 

  1. That the old model has challenges and does not support today’s learners and education system.
  2. That including all actors in the decision-making process leads to greater success, supports healthy well-being, and ensures greater engagement by all parties. 
  3. That collaboration needs to be a priority.
  4. That taking the time is more efficient in the long run and does not hinder gains in learning; a better reflective approach, based on research and collaboration will lead to a better system. 

In essence, the hidden meaning or unintended message that has been uncovered by this forced shift in education is:

We believe in partnerships, collaboration, collective voice…but only when we have time. Otherwise, it becomes a burden rather than an added benefit. So, another question remains: do we truly believe in this?

This is a dangerous message to send out. Educators know that this is completely unintended (my hopeful attitude will choose to believe this to be true), yet that is the message that is conveyed. And if we truly care about learning, educators’ well-being, supporting parents and families, we will all further reflect on how this collective voice and partnership will become a bigger priority in 2021.

When books such as these are deemed inappropriate or disturbing, we are telling all kids of that school who identify with these books that their lives are inappropriate or disturbing. Is that what we want to tell our kids?


It has been a long time since I actually found the time, and took the time, to sit down and write a blog post. But today, my heart was compelled to put my feelings and my thoughts into words. Courage and honesty need to be at the forefront. My voice needs to speak up, because,

ENOUGH is ENOUGH.

Without a doubt, the past year has been a tumultuous one. So many changes have been happening, so many cries for help, so many events that we cannot and should never ignore. 

I must admit, it is easier to sit and write about injustice when that injustice is not affecting your own personal life. When you come from a status of privilege (let me share and acknowledge that I am a white, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual male; meaning, I know that history and society have given me greater opportunities), you don’t have to face as many challenges and hardships that others have to. However, when I see injustice happen, when I am a witness to the wrongdoings of others, I cannot sit idly by and let it continue. 

Today’s post is more difficult to write. This narrative includes actions that are happening to a friend of mine. I hope that I can honour his story, honour his spirit, and his heart. 

A fellow incredible educator, looks to teach, to inspire, to engage students in amazing learning opportunities. This summer, he also asked our virtual community to help support his classroom by purchasing various books that promote literacy, diversity, passion, and community.  To my disbelief, I find out that since the beginning of the school year, things have not been as positive. 

Some parents started questioning the books that this educator shared. Some parents decided to threaten to remove their children from the school because of these books. Upon this news, I started to imagine, what books could be so incredibly hateful that it is creating such a reaction from parents. As a father myself, I know the importance of wanting to protect my kids in various situations.

Astonishingly, the book in question is It Feels Good to Be Yourself, by Theresa Thorn. A book that promotes living your true authentic self, a book that helps kids understand and build empathy surrounding gender identity. 

It Feels Good To Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity

Really? That is what parents are afraid of?

So what happened with all of this? A meeting? A discussion?

Nope, leaders from the public school and publicly-funded district (emphasis here) decided that all such books needed to be removed from the classroom. Any posts about this book must be taken down. Furthermore, all books that the teacher wants to add to the classroom library must be approved by the Principal. If any further “disturbances” are created (clarification: parents who don’t like diverse books), the teacher’s contract is to be terminated. And this is not for the entire staff. This is ONLY for the one teacher who cared enough about his students to diversify classroom books.

Please help me understand. How is this still happening in 2020? Last year, I remember writing letters with my students to a district in Georgia after they banned Dear Martin by Nic Stone because of harsh language and negative attitudes against law enforcement. Seriously?

As a teacher, I try to approach learning with humanity, when teachers strive to let students be seen or heard and valued, this is seen as inappropriate? Can someone tell me why? I will not name the district, the school, nor the teacher, because I do not wish to create future repercussions. But this cannot keep happening in schools across North America. 

LGBTQ teachers are still being threatened with their jobs if they share about their partners, their family lives, or books celebrating diversity and inclusivity. Teachers of colour are being threatened or working in environments where they are still not seen in books, where their history is not part of classrooms. People are being hurt, threatened, and demoralized because of the shame, hatred, and fear of a small minority who live a life of privilege and share little regard for empathy and compassion.  

Other than speaking out, what can we do? 
Please share this story. Share other stories you hear about. Fight back.
Share your disgust for what is happening.

When books such as these are deemed inappropriate or disturbing, we are telling all kids of that school who identify with these books that their lives are inappropriate or disturbing. Is that what we want to tell our kids?

I will not only be using this Blog and this situation as a teaching opportunity, but I will also be personally donating some copies of the book It Feels Good to Be Yourself, to classrooms and teachers across North America who want to share this story with their students.

Do not be a passive witness to what is going on. Speak up. Speak out. Call them out. Nobody has the right to treat others like this. No system leader has this right. If so, they do not deserve their title. I will not stop. We deserve better.  

Sometimes we have to find the light in the dark

“Life can be tough. Teaching can be tough.
Sometimes we need to find the light in the dark.”

The past few weeks have been a struggle for me. Although I have been faced with countless obstacles and challenges before, recently these many same challenges, compounded together have become an unbearable weight on my shoulders.

I have also had to brave the wilderness, embrace vulnerability and take some time to collect my thoughts, finally deciding that it is important to share.
(You can obviously note that from this past reference, Brené Brown has been a great influence in my reflections.)

Educators are supposed to be great.
Educators are supposed to smile.
Educators are supposed to create moments and learning adventures! 

Although these are all true statements, and these are the images portrayed to us on social media, we must also acknowledge that teaching and learning aren’t always amazing, incredible and perfect. Many times strategies don’t work out, the trauma faced by our students is too great, and there is a major lack in system support to educators making these amazing adventures temporary not possible.

“Sometimes you have to go through darkness to get to the light.”
-unknown

For those who know me, I am always filled with hope, kindness, and optimism. I believe in the goodness of others and that there is always a way to make something happen. But I also know that I sometimes feel defeated, I sometimes feel like I just don’t know. And many educators, although they may feel the same way, are afraid to share their voice for fear of judgment from peers, from parents, from their own building or system leaders. As educators, we must also realize that we are not modeling a growth mindset, empathy nor kindness when all we share are the incredible things that happen. There is always more than one side to any story and we need to be brave enough to share all those sides, regardless of the apprehensions we may have.

We are lucky in education to have access to incredible communities of learners and passionate teachers. We need to remember that we have to support each other, listen to others and share our own struggles to learn collaboratively. 

In the past few months, I have scrapped lessons, I have started over, I have listened to students cry, I have witnessed trying behavioural attitudes, I have heard and witnessed major trauma in the lives of student, I have contacted parents, I have broken down, I have sat in meetings; I have sometimes hit rock bottom, and many times, have felt alone because no one around me seemed to have that same reality. In my own struggles, I have worked hard to find that light.

So I urge all educators, be humble, be honest, be authentic. Share the amazing and share the challenges. When looking for help, be wary of the word “expert”, because no such thing exists. If you want to offer support, do not market yourself as an expert. We are all passionate learners and educators. We all have something great to share with others. Let’s work together to build up our communities.

And to the broken system: find the humanity in your approach. When we have students, staff, and family in crisis; do not ask for many pieces of paper. Do not ask your teachers to sit for hours filling out detailed accounts about students, incidents or recommendations. Take some time and go talk to others. To leaders, directors, superintendents: find your way out of the offices and into the schools and classrooms that are screaming for help, that are searching for hope. The traditional ways of isolating ourselves in our hierarchical patterns and buildings do not work to support our education system. Be brave enough to challenge the structure and way of working by going to see the students, to see the teachers, to hear the stories. 

Although to some this may not seem like a worthwhile investment, you may, in fact, be having a far greater impact than you realize. You may be saving a life.

“If you feel like you’re losing everything, remember that trees lose their leaves every year and they still stand tall and wait for better days to come.”
-unknown

The Day I Felt Abandoned

Posted: January 28, 2021 in Uncategorized

So I realize that although we were not meant to go through this alone. The system and the government, are forcing me to do so. 

On January 28th, the Government of Ontario declared that several new regions in the province would be able to open schools for in-person learning. A majority of people, many parents, cheered at the announcement, that children would be able to leave home to continue their learning and socializing at school. 

Let’s be clear, learning was never intended to be done behind a screen. Although many have succeeded and many have adapted to such a reality, as my friend Dr. Jody Carrington would say:  we are wired for connection. It is in a connected environment that we can truly learn, build empathy, compassion and integrate our knowledge into real-world applications…as a community. 

But what we need to remember, and what we have talked about for many years, is that the one-size-fits-all approach cannot be adopted for all decisions. When discussing and understanding equity, we know that we cannot simply give the same directives and supports to everyone and think that we are being fair. 

So it is on #BellLetsTalk day, a day to raise awareness about mental health, that I truly felt abandoned as an educator. Not because I cannot wait to see my students and teach them in person, but because no one is thinking about teachers and what a last-minute decision to return to school actually means.

As a high school teacher, we have currently completed a quadmester. Quadmesters are our new divisions for courses (being adapted from a system of semesters). When we left for our Winter Break, we took what we needed for online learning (just in case) and everything else was left as is. Now with one weekday left, a day that we (those who are parents) have to stay home with our kids before we welcome our students back, we have to figure out how we can make this Monday return happen. 

  • How in our absence, can we make sure that all the classrooms have the appropriate number of desks for the new number of students for class? 
  • How will we clean up all our material and resources from our past quadmester?
  • How will I find time to prepare physical material and classroom space for my students for Monday morning?
  • How will I prepare all new resources for my new cohort of students?
  • How am I supposed to show up, full of energy and a smile, when I am left with so many questions and worries and no work days at school?

I will agree with many health professionals, that to support positive mental health for students, physical presence in schools is a benefit. But the public outcry from parents to send kids back to school is not only in support of mental health, we must be honest and realize that it is also in response to the challenges of having kids at home all day for over a month and having to support online learning. This in itself is a different challenge, one that many have a hard time with and were never truly prepared for. Because we must remember that parents also have jobs to worry about, they also have responsibilities to take care of. 

So I realize that although we were not meant to go through this alone. The system and the government, are forcing me to do so. 

I will do what I can to show up Monday and be the best educator I can be. I will work hours on end, on my own time, at home, trying not to penalize my own kids to prepare everything I need for Monday. I will approach Monday with grace: grace for myself, grace for my students, and grace for my colleagues. I will hope that my students and community will extend the same grace to me as I navigate these challenges, alone. 

What society expects, what the government expects, what the school boards expect…I cannot give. I cannot burn myself out in support of last-minute decisions. I cannot lose sleep, happiness, nor moments and memories with my own kids and be a martyr for the education system. And most importantly, I cannot abandon myself, my balance, nor my own mental health. Because on January 28th, 2021, #BellLetsTalk Day, I have had to come to accept that I, as an educator, have been abandoned by the rest. And I refuse to abandon myself because I have had to realize that I am the sole person now looking out for me. 

A Community in Crisis

Posted: April 1, 2020 in Education, Uncategorized

Remember, if it takes a pandemic to realize that there is inequity in your system, then you are living in privilege. Please do not make decisions based on privilege. Make decisions based on each and every child in front of you.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic has swept the globe, the entire global community, and the education community, have become a community in crisis. Schedules have been uprooted, routines have been changed, social expectations have been drastically changed. 

Amidst this time of chaos, a new wave of thinking has taken over education. I am told we are now in the era of remote/distance or online learning. As I listen to all these talks, as I scroll threw my social media feeds, I am deeply troubled by everything I see and hear. In this unprecedented time of change and adaptation, I believe that we are no longer in a wave of learning; we are in crisis management of education. 

Yes, you heard me right…no matter the intention, no matter the will, we are no longer leading learning. We are managing a crisis. And guess what, there is nothing wrong with that.

When new systems are thrown into place at “lightning speed” with no basis in research, practice, and pedagogy, when students’ well-being, health, and family situations are not taken into account as a priority, when equity does not become the driving force behind all decisions in education, no real learning can take place. 

Now although I do not mean to offend anyone, and I recognize the valiant efforts of so many people across the globe trying to get material, lessons, videos, and activities together, we cannot professionally call our crisis management scenarios as a conducive environment to learning. 

Let us remember some key points:

  • Giving access to tools and wifi to a child does not ensure learning;
  • Not having access to support tools and support personnel during learning does not ensure learning;
  • Assigning hours of reading, videos, activities, projects to be done under parental supervision does not ensure learning;
  • Completing tasks and checklists does not ensure learning.

Let us also reflect:

  • Asking parents to support and supervise hours of learning (between 1-5 children) with all other responsibilities during this pandemic is inhumane.
  • Expecting parents to play the role of the substitute teacher is not right. 
  • Expecting a child to comply and complete worksheets may fill time, but it does not engage nor does it measure learning.

There are students who are anxious and worried because they may have a family member who is sick, a neighbour who is a frontline worker at a health care facility, a parent who has lost their job, a sibling who cries, a family situation of violence or abuse, a lack of meals for the household and so much more. 

Therefore, forget the grades, the lessons, the Zoom appointments. Forget the normality in the routine of education. Let us all give each other permission to live through the emotions of these challenging times. Allow everyone to process what is going on. Live and lead with heart.

Let’s stop placing unrealistic expectations on educators. There has been no training on creating pedagogical activities for true distance learning. For us to be able to call it distance or remote learning, there needs to be proper training and resources not only for the educators creating the material but for the students who will be accessing these new tools. 

And please think of equity. Reaching a majority of students is not okay; it is not enough. Think of your most vulnerable. We should be starting with them. Remember, if it takes a pandemic to realize that there is inequity in your system, then you are living in privilege. Please do not make decisions based on privilege. Make decisions based on each and every child in front of you. 

In this time of crisis, it is not lightning speed that is needed. We have one chance to get it right and be there for students. Let’s not create new trauma for students and families. Let’s support them. 

So instead of all the structure, the expectations, the assessments; let us focus on building humanity and community. 

  • Create and make available resources, learning activities and material that families can choose to access if they deem it necessary.
  • Suggest family bonding activities: exercise as a family, cook as a family, play games as a family rather than completing packets.
  • Compile and bring together resources for wellness, balance, mental health.
  • Check-in and talk with families. Laugh with them, cry with them, reach out to see how the school community can support them.
  • Mail a book to each student to encourage a love of reading.

So if you are an educator, if you are a parent or a leader. Know that we will all be watching. Offer your support, offer your heart, offer your time. Show grace, compassion, empathy, and understanding. Don’t put unrealistic pressures on families going through incredible challenges and emotions. We are trying to manage a crisis. As we manage it, let us remember to lead with heart. We are not setting up a temporary system for learning, we are supporting a community and helping hearts and hands thrive through love. That should be our priority.