Happy Memorial Day Educators! As always, I hope you and yours remain well and that peace, love, and much health stays with you.
Memorial Day is not only a day of remembering those lost but usually marks the beginning of the summer season. The paradox of the day is interesting but yet speaks to the reality of our current situation. Remembering and closing out what was while creating space for what is and is to come seems to be the necessary work at this time.
I recently heard a story regarding higher education and the toll that the pandemic is taking on universities and colleges. The expert they brought on to speak was a consultant in the field and remarked that he has, for quite some time, been informing institutions of the need to begin to diversify their offerings and look at new and less expensive ways to package higher education. He left the conversation by saying that he cannot imagine a future where higher education returns to what it once was. Now that we know that education can happen in a much different way and at a lesser expense, colleges and universities will have difficulty convincing families and their students to return to the limited options that once were. Finally, he predicted that the institutions that are unable or unwilling to pivot and adjust will risk eventual closure and that many will not survive this shift. As a parent of a high schooler facing college decisions in a few years, this type of news is bittersweet. There is so much about the current college experience that is beneficial but still, so much more is unnecessary and does not benefit the masses it is designed to serve. The message was loud and clear, adjust, or dissolve.
The pandemic has not only brought the loss of lives but it has also caused a dismantling of industries, shortsightedness, and a litany of “well we can’t do it that way because we’re not set up to operate that way.” We have been forced to look at options that we refused to consider because we were not required to do so. For example, the age-old issue of getting parents to parent/teacher conferences when we know they’re working 2-3 jobs to stay afloat was a limited issue when conferences went virtual and attendance spiked to record numbers in some schools. Students who were finding the mechanics of regular schooling to be the source of relentless distractions and seemed disengaged are turning in assignments and plugging in with the opportunity to connect when they are most ready to do so. No…it’s not perfect and yes there are many students where the logistics and access still need to be figured out. We are, however, pushing into new options and possibilities.
We are far from the right mix of solutions but in our brainstorming, let’s memorialize (commemorate or preserve the memory of what worked) without idolizing what once was.
A definition found for idolizing is…” to regard with great or uncritical admiration or devotion”.
There is much to be admired about a system that has created opportunities for so many. It is not, however, without a myriad of faults and many of them have become glaringly obvious during this crisis. I too cannot imagine a world where public education can return to what it once was and I am quite happy about that fact. There is a bit of anxiety about what is to come but idolizing what was to preserve comfort and normalcy is not an option. This is not the time to look longingly at a broken system. It’s time to turn loose all options and release the sacred cows of education to garner a glimpse of what can be better for all students.
Education is changing. It took a hit and it should not come back the same from this one. We too are changing. We took a hit and we should not attempt or expect to come back the same either. It’s okay to feel the loss and grieve. It’s even perfectly fine to preserve the memories of what once was but when we reminisce and go back down memory lane, let’s choose to do so with a lens of honesty. Let’s interrogate the memory and uncover the dark spaces that we were once unwilling to confront. Let’s be real about what wasn’t working for our students, for their families, for us. Idolizing the moment causes us to run the risk of creating a new system with all the same faults and discrepancies. It allows us the space to resume the use of processes that support the vocal and powerful majority while alienating others.
Today, as we remember those who have passed on in service, maybe we can take some time to let go of what must go in this season. The school year is coming to an end and when we return in the fall, school will be different. Let’s allow this time to serve as a moment to let go of additional weights that may hold us back. Life continues to happen in seasons and cycles. Our ability to go with the ebb and flow positions us to manage the shifts and changes with greater ease. Idolizing traps us and block the progress and renewed experience that awaits us. Memorializing opens the way for the new and necessary. What new and necessary…might I ask, is possibly awaiting you?
In Solidarity and Love,