Since the coronavirus pandemic began over a year ago, students have had to navigate upheavals in their education and new ways of learning. Many of these changes have been challenging, as students and teachers have struggled with isolation, rapid changes in educational technology, and shifting regulations on physical distancing. However, the disruption to education has also created opportunities for lasting positive change in schools. Toward the beginning of the pandemic, Professor Bettina Love pointed out many of the positive changes happening in education:
My social-media timeline is filled with stories from teachers around the country finding innovative ways to reach their students . . . Communities are rallying together to support families in need. Schools are relying on different indicators of achievement other than standardized testing to measure improvement, such as parent engagement, teacher-outreach levels, and interactive lessons. Teachers are making the social-emotional learning of their students their top priority. Students are having more time for physical activity and art. And they are researching and learning about things they feel passionate about but never had time to explore before.1
We now have an opportunity to rethink schools for the better, and students should have a voice in shaping changes in education, since they are the ones who know best what helps them learn and grow.
As the school year draws to a close, ask your students to reflect on how the changes in education during the COVID-19 pandemic have impacted them and what proposals they have for how schools should change when the pandemic is over.
Note: What follows are teacher-facing instructions for the activities. Find student-facing instructions in the Google Slides for this Teaching Idea.
Set the stage for a conversation about reimagining school using one of the options below:
Remote Learning Note: The first option for an opening reflection will work remotely as long as students have their journals available. For the second option, use the remote learning version of wraparound to hear students’ ideas about what school is for.
Ask your students to reflect on the following prompt in their journals:
Then, create five sections on the board or a wall in your classroom and label them “challenges,” “benefits,” “surprises,” “what I discovered about myself,” and “what I discovered about my community.”
Ask students to write aspects of their reflection that they wish to share on sticky notes and then place the notes under the relevant heading.
Once students have finished, read over the notes as a class, and reflect together on what you notice.
Remote Learning Note: Create a Padlet with five columns labeled “challenges,” “benefits,” “surprises,” “what I discovered about myself,” and “what I discovered about my community.” Ask students to post aspects of their reflection that they wish to share in the relevant column.
Place your students into small groups and ask them to brainstorm one change that they would like to see in schools after the pandemic. (Note: If it is not possible for your students to work together in groups due to social distancing requirements, they can work individually and then share their ideas with the full class.)
Students can use their reflections from the first activity to help them generate ideas, and they can use the following questions to guide their discussion:
Once they have finished, ask each group to present their idea to the class.
Remote Learning Note: Place your students into small groups in virtual breakout rooms to brainstorm ideas for changes. Then, bring your students back as a full class and ask one volunteer from each group to present their group’s proposal.
Ask your students to select their favorite proposals from activity 3 and write them in a report to submit to your school administrators. The report should include their answers to the questions:
Ask your school administration to take these ideas into consideration when they are planning for the next school year.