The Oxymoron of Learning from a Distance

Many students are dismayed, their hopes for a return to a long-established normal this fall, dashed, as school administrators continued suspending or severely curtailing in-person classes, as well as most clubs and sports through at least the end of 2020, due to the on-going COVID-related health risks. Continued distance learning has disrupted the coming of age process, ushering in a set of consequences that will probably not be more fully, if ever, understood until decades from now. Students and teachers are unexpectedly, and in some cases involuntarily, having to recalibrate expectations regarding learning outcomes of the K-12 educational process. 

Seeking extra guidance in order to clarify an instruction, assignment to be completed, or test score to be debated, all via an impromptu drop in during lunch, before or after school, or stay after class is impossible in the age of COVID-induced distance learning, a limited learning experience that leaves little room for spontaneous conversation, essential for effective mentor-student exchange. The reactionary management decisions to COVID-19, creating a wholesale disruption of an educational model, only exacerbating the existing systematic fragility, leads all stakeholders to scamper for alternatives to meet performance expectations which may be nearly impossible to meet in today’s distorted educational environment

Students’ attempts, at times in a state of panic, to communicate with teachers via email, a communication medium seldom effective pre-COVID 19, yet now a primary means of communication, and yet probably even less effective now no matter how committed the teacher to the cause of education in the time of COVID-inspired, though manmade (humans make policy decisions, not viruses) dysfunctional educational processes. Teachers are inundated with emails, for which, they can’t possibly answer all (with only so much time in a day, especially with a workload that has not lessened but only increased in size and complexity—(of course, we are highlighting effective teachers here.)

Teachers are struggling to seek a balance between their obligation to students and the need for a semblance of life beyond work, particularly when work is now literally in their home or worse yet both analog and digital school simultaneously in the hybrid model, a nightmare with no precedent. A nightmare compounded by the rapid decentralization of an educational management system, leaving not only teachers but also students and parents with very little support from administrators who, although not always effective were at least physically available at the plant (school) during hours of operation.

Students and teachers are developing an uneasy, shifting, build as we go mentality, further straining what was an already complicated working relationship pre-COVID that when damaged is difficult to repair and costs to all societal stakeholders difficult to calculate. The silver lining though in this crisis of education is that disruption is the mother of innovation. Students in order to learn effectively will have to be more assertive, responsible for initiating contact with teachers or peers.  Teachers to remain effective and thus decrease the now heightened risk of burnout will have to experiment with a variety of pedagogies as well as technologies, even if outside of their well-established, often contractually, comfort zone.  

As the COVID-disruption extends, students and school staff are adjusting, especially the ones who regularly and readily acknowledge the complexity of the changes, expressing their frustration, worries as well as sharing successes, though adapting to the radical change to their lives is not without its toll. Since March 13, 2020, the current COVID generation rocket-propelled their “growth spurt”, although often involuntarily and unpremeditated, of the painstaking process to evolve into their better being, yet the long term “scars” of such a radical, inescapable growth have yet to be revealed.

For more information about how Creative Marbles Consultancy can help students and parents during the transition to new educational modes of learning, contact us at Creative Marbles Consultancy

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About Art Baird, Founding Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Art melds his passion for acquiring and disseminating knowledge with his decades of experience teaching into straightforward, collaborative advising. His pointed questioning facilitates debate, empowering clients to achieve their vision in education and in life.
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