As we inch closer to the start of the school year, more and more schools are announcing plans about what school could look like this fall. Detroit Public Schools recently approved in-person instruction, a move that was met with criticism. The Ann Arbor teachers’ union has called face-to-face instruction unsafe. As teachers prepare for the upcoming year, many are worried about what they’ll be preparing to face.
Although a “road map” to reopen schools was released by Govenor Gretchen Witmer late last month, the details of how to reopen schools are still up in the air. There are major logistical challenges to solve, like how to make little kids keep their masks on, or how older kids can safely social distance during crowded passing periods. A lot of this will likely fall on teachers to figure out, which worries Cara Lougheed, an English and history teacher at Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills.
“I’m hearing all kinds of plans,” said Lougheed. “A lot of it just feels like nonsense, I just don’t know how it would work.”
Some teachers are proposing smaller class sizes in order to give more attention to students as well offering more room for social distancing. But it's unclear how schools would be able to do that given Michigan's teacher shortage and pandemic-induced budget cuts. And then there's the fact that there is still a lot of uncertainty over the novel coronavirus itself. Even as states start to see a second wave of cases, the extent to which kids transmit the virus is still largely unknown.
“The virus itself is constantly evolving and changing,” said Rick Joseph, a language arts and social studies teacher at Birmingham Covington School.“So we’ve never faced a situation that has so many unknowns, so many variables, so it’s a time of incredible uncertainty.”
As teachers and parents alike try to prepare for uncertainty, some are worried that this will be a “lost year” for education. But teaching consultant and Stateside education commentator Matinga Ragatz said that's not true. First of all, Ragatz said, children’s health and safety should be the priority. And in terms of what learning looks like in the next school year, Ragatz said the pandemic actually offers an interesting opportunity.
“There is an opportunity for us to teach [students] how to be better learners, using the technology, using the resources at their hand as well as teaching them essential content as opposed to everything that is important in the world,” Ragatz said. “A lot of our kids are going to learn a lot of the life lessons that we as teachers have not been able to teach them because we are focused on standards, curriculum, and data points."
This article was written by Stateside production assistant Olive Scott