by Paul Romani (M.Ed.)

Maintaining Education Standards During COVID-19

by Paul Romani (M.Ed.)

Children benefit from routines. This is why it’s so important to establish these routines at the beginning of the school year, and why parents should have routines for their children at home.

Absences from school have an impact on a child’s ability to focus when they return to school. Weekends without routines are an example of such a disruption. However, much more significant disruptions are the longer holidays, i.e. the winter holidays, spring break, and the summer holidays.

Educational spring camp and summer camps that have similar daily routines to school help bridge these gaps, making kids much more successful when they go back to school.

COVID-19 Disruptions

With the current school closures due to COVID-19, routines have been completely disrupted for many children whose schools are slow to respond to the transition to distance learning.

For many public school children, they may be waiting until mid to late April for distance learning to begin.

Meanwhile, such children are dependent on their parents for routine, which may or may not take place.

Even when distance learning does begin, the bar has been set so low by local governments – with so many exceptions made for families who apparently don’t have a computer or wifi access (yes, I’m dubious of this), and teachers who have no clue how to use technology for learning – that public school kids have little to no structure to their learning.

Consequently, they have little incentive to actually study! After all, they’re going to pass no matter what…

Such children are potentially faced with no proper routine until early to mid-September. From spring break until then, that’s 6 months with little to no routine. And, they’re probably playing computers games for the entire time – after all, this is what politicians and the media is telling them to do!

Imagine what public school teachers face in September! They have to re-establish routines, behavioral norms, and learning standards after an absence of 6 months from ‘real school’ with real expectations.

Teachers and Parents Must Maintain Standards!

This is why it’s so important for schools and parents to maintain learning expectations during school closures.

Why do I say teachers and parents? Because education is a team effort involving multiple ‘stakeholders’: school administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

Any one of these stakeholders can be the reason that learning doesn’t take place. A teacher doesn’t email his/her students. Parents don’t allow their kids to use technology. Kids refuse to work because they will pass no matter what.

At Pear Tree School, our amazing team has been able to establish high-quality distance education by the end of the first week back at school!

Maintaining education standards
Pear Tree aims to maintain our students’ amazing dedication to learning during COVID-19

Parents in our school community have been super supportive with this transition: helping other families, pick up ‘to go’ bags, and responding to questionnaires and emails from teachers.

Such communication and support has been essential, since it helps our team know what the home learning context is for our students:

  • Are the students currently living in the city/country?
  • Do the children have learning support from their parents? If so, what does this look like?
  • Do they have access to technology? If so, what?
  • Do they need educational resources?

Since we’ve been able to establish distance education routines very quickly and effectively, our students are still 100% engaged with learning. They want to learn.

Added to this is the fact that we’re utilising the technology skills that students acquired while with us at school, and embracing new technological skills that they can use through distance learning.

Using communication tools, such as Zoom, students (and parents) are able to liaise with teachers at allotted times. Teachers are able to have whole or part-class meetings to help maintain the teacher-student and student-student bonds. The same tools can be used for group collaboration, which helps students maintain friendships at a time where they’re told they can’t have playdates.

Using other tools, such as Loom, teachers can create video lessons or morning messages for students, even including webcam images of themselves to personalise the learning experience.

Parents are provided support by parents, both through regular communication, and through changing the learning to take the pressure off parents – after all, parents are not trained teachers!

Nevertheless, Pear Tree has very different expectations to public schools; and, conversely, our parent community has different expectations from us! Together, we raise the bar and set realistic but high standards.

Public schools need to do the same. They need to establish a distance learning program now, not at the end of April. They need to set standards for teachers, students and parents. If not, September will be a complete nightmare for them.