Back-to-school shopping looks a little different this year than in the past. Along with pencils, notebooks and folders, parents are buying masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes in preparation for their kids to return to the classroom. While school and education have been forever changed by the pandemic, we tend to look at the negative ways we have been impacted. But have there been any positive changes to schools and classrooms since the COVID-19 crisis began? As a veteran classroom teacher for grades 6-12 and now working as a school counselor, I believe that not all changes to education have been bad, we just need to find the silver lining.
Positive changes to education since 2020 began:
1. Increased Flexibility
While the pandemic is not over, and, in some areas there is a current surge going on, we have learned that things can change on a dime. Schools shut their doors and rolled out online learning programs almost overnight. While no virtual program was perfect, they allowed for students and teachers to interact while at home. Schools kept the learning going even when the whole entire world shut down. Schools got technology, food, and learning materials to students in a matter of days. Students (and teachers) learned to navigate software like Google Classroom, Schoology and Canvas like pros with very little hands-on training. We learned to think on our feet, with the help of many parents and caretakers helping our kiddos at home.
2. Increased Cleaning Protocols
No matter where you are in my school, there is hand sanitizer at every turn. School buildings and districts have greatly increased their cleaning protocols. The administrators in our building were disinfecting our student bathrooms and spraying door knobs in between class periods to ensure student safety. Most buildings have never been more clean. I, for one, am very thankful. Hopefully this will serve us well when cold and flu season rolls around this winter.
3. Keeping Sick Kids Home
With COVID-19 not going away any time soon, parents are expected to keep their kids home when they are sick. Even when they have a cold or other respiratory infection, schools must be cautious. Some schools are checking temperatures or requiring parents to fill out a wellness survey before students can enter the building. In order to prevent an outbreak, some districts are requiring students to show a negative COVID-19 test before they return to in-person learning. By keeping kids home who are sick with colds and the flu, we will be keeping our staff and students healthy. While it might be inconvenient to keep your child home with the sniffles, parents are doing their part in keeping their educational community healthy.
4. Increased Accessibility to Technology
While many students have their own devices for school, not everyone does. So many districts, including those which are socio-economically disadvantaged, scrambled to get technology to all of their students. Some districts even got creative and provided WiFi to families who couldn’t afford it. Check out how creative Wayne Westland Community Schools got when it came to providing internet to their families last year.
Most districts now are one-to-one, which means every student has a device. These devices have really changed the way that teachers are delivering their curriculum by providing non-traditional experiences for kids instead of just lecturing and taking notes. This certainly falls in with the most positive changes to education!
5. More Money for Students
This summer, the state of Michigan passed the largest increase in per pupil funding in the state’s history. This bill, HB 4411 will attempt to level the educational playing field between poor and wealthy districts. This bill invests over 17 billion dollars in students and schools across the state. Part of this bill is an additional $362 million from federal COVID-19 relief funds. This means that schools will receive almost $1100 per pupil in additional funds. Some other highlights from this bill include more money to hire school counselors, social workers, and psychologists, more money for Great Start Readiness preschool programs, and additional funds toward special education.
Sometimes it is hard to find positivity in such a dark situation. But some changes to education have been positive and really benefited our students. As a parent and as an educator, this pandemic has been very challenging to say the least, but at least there are a few positive changes to a system that desperately needed some shaking up. I hope these modifications will ensure that your students have a safe and healthy school year ahead.
What do you think the best changes to education were this year? For more on keeping a healthy start to school, check out The Most Important Back-to-School Shopping List.