As we navigate through unprecedented and historic times, one of the greatest impacts COVID-19 is currently making lies in the world of education. Mass numbers of students are at home, some knowing they will not return to their classrooms this school year, and some still left wondering.
Across the states, there is a spectrum of responses from state boards of education and local districts on how they are handling what some are calling remote learning, or distance learning. The broad array of educational experiences students will experience over the next several months depends on numerous factors…from the amount and quality of assignments presented online to the level of push parents make to ensure learning does not stop for their children.
Without a doubt, the amount and quality of learning which will take place will be nowhere close to what would have taken place if schools had remained in session.
But the amount of knowledge gained compared to what would have been if classrooms could have maintained their normal routines is
not the biggest loss for these students…
Disappointed in the End
During a faculty meeting conducted over Zoom for the school where I teach, our principal asked one of our teachers who is retiring
at the end of the school year how she was doing.
“This is not the way I wanted it to end,” she said.
She talked about all the projects she was getting done around the house with her husband and she commented that she knew God was in control and we must put our faith in him.
But with the cloud of potentially not seeing her students in her classroom ever again hanging over her head, the emotion in her voice was raw…and it was real.
Schools are built to educate. Teachers are paid to teach subject matter. And students are compelled to gain knowledge.
But there is a glue which holds all of those things together…and that glue is human connection.
Connection is the Glue
As adults, can we remember exactly what we learned in math during 3rd grade? I know I can’t.
Can we remember our 3rd grade teacher and describe their personality? I’m sure the percentages of affirmative answers will be much higher for that question.
The human bonds and connections between teachers and students, between students and their peers, and between teachers and their fellow staff members are what make knowledge stick.
And it is how we learn to apply this knowledge to our lives.
My educational experiences in grades one through eight consisted of two classrooms and two teachers, Ron and MaryAnn Krohse (pronounced crow-zee). Mr. and Mrs. Krohse taught at our small Lutheran school of approximately forty students for 43 years.
Did the Krohses cram so much content into their students’ brains that they were prepared to attend Harvard or Yale? Nope.
But they showed us how to apply the knowledge we learned to our own lives by being lighthouses who loved us, served us, and cared for us.
In today’s day and age of technology, anybody can learn anything, anywhere, at any time.
But what good is knowledge if not applied for a useful purpose?
Writing Our Own Stories
Whether we realize it or not, every single person has the power to write their own story. If we are not aware of this and don’t use our power of choice, we allow the circumstances of our lives to dictate our reactions to events and this becomes our story. But when use our power of choice, when we take the pen in our hand, when we seize the opportunity to write our own story we can live a life of meaning and purpose…and a life of meaning and purpose always circles back to human connection.
Because writing our own story is not a means for self-promotion. It is intended for self-donation as it becomes the avenue for us to discover our unique gifts and abilities and then give them away through our relationships with others.
One of the coolest parts of being a teacher is witnessing young people writing their own stories and sometimes being able to play a part in one of the chapters of their lives.
And this is the biggest loss for both teachers and students during this pandemic…the human connection to be part of each other’s stories.
We might be able to conduct some standardized tests to gauge the loss of knowledge from these times of isolation, but we will never be able to measure the loss of connection we are suffering.
In the months and years to come, we will have the opportunity to rise above this suffering by building our leadership skills so we can grow relationships of impact with our students as we give them a better version of ourselves every day…