What the pandemic taught us about education

TRNTO X Park Street Education

Over the past year, we have seen a dramatic shift in our education system in which students, parents and teachers have had to continuously adapt to the ever-changing lockdown restrictions. Remote learning, hybrid teaching, meeting IDs, tech access, and repeated Zoomisms (“can you all hear me?” and “you’re on mute!”) became commonplace as we moved through the 2020/2021 school year. And now, more than a year since our “new normal” began, and as the vaccine rollout continues on an upward trend, our schools are beginning to imagine a return to the familiar. As plans take shape, we must remember all we have learned this past year.

Here are three lessons I hope we take with us as we venture into fall:

  1. Education can (and should) go beyond the textbook

Education systems have long understood the benefits of student-centred learning. Still, the abrupt pandemic shift resulted in schools and teachers seeking ways to connect with and engage their online classrooms genuinely. With increased screen time, higher consumption of media and social justice movements taking centre stage, children are more aware of the world than ever before. When teachers strive to teach beyond the confines of the subject or the textbook, lessons become integrated, relevant and meaningful. Students make connections between their learning and themselves and the world around them. The result is an education structure that connects to the child and encourages students to develop into caring and compassionate members of our society. 

  1. Hybrid learning allows your child’s learning to go where they go

An engaging school day does not need to be limited to a physical environment. A combination of in-class and online instruction, a hybrid learning environment provides students choice in the structure of their school day and their optimal learning environment. Although we have submitted “hybrid” into the COVID-19 buzzword lexicon, there is merit to the format. In a traditional school environment, when choosing courses, students are given few options, and must work within a set school calendar. A hybrid environment provides students with almost limitless options, allowing them to choose their own learning path, and asking questions like, “what do I want to study? Where do I want to study it? And when do I want to study it?” This flexibility also benefits the modern-day family who does not always fit the traditional education mold. 

  1. Connection is key

To be fully present in their school day, students need connections with their peers and their teachers. Strong relationships built on trust and mutual respect are the keys to a productive and safe classroom. Put simply, we need our schools and classrooms to put our student relationships first. This can look like teachers in hybrid learning environments committed to knowing each of their students academically and emotionally, or schools offering after school clubs (virtually or otherwise) that allow students the opportunity to connect outside of the classroom. Virtual field trips, enrichment days and spirit weeks are other great ways to encourage further connection as students and teachers bond over shared experiences that extend beyond the curriculum. 

While the pandemic brought many challenging and fearful times, and illuminated the harsh inequity present within our school system, there were pockets of light in which students, parents and teachers came together as one community to forge a new path and adjust to our new normal. As the Head Teacher at Park Street Education, I have witnessed first-hand the profound impact these learnings from the pandemic have had on our students. From guest speakers from around the world, enrichment and spirit days, and classes that encouraged students to develop empathy and understanding, Park Street students will head in to the 21/22 school year with confidence, self-advocacy, and a love for learning.

As the 2021/2022 school year is set to begin, we must remember that there is still work to be done. In keeping these three lessons in the foreground, we will continue to create classrooms and education systems that are more inclusive, flexible and relevant.

Park Street Education offers an experience-based hybrid education for elementary and high school students taught by subject specialist teachers. Our individualized, progressive approach to education allows teachers and students to connect and allows each child to grow and develop. Learn more about our unique offer by visiting our website.

Attend Park Street Education’s Open House on September 22, 2021 at 6:00pm. Register for the Open House here!

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