Creating “Educational Outliers” out of Covid19 (part 1)

In my previous blog, “How to survive homeschooling” I mentioned 7 ways to survive the crisis-schooling situation where parents literally became teachers overnight, turning their homes into classrooms and often having to work and attend their own meetings while still being the parent/teacher.

Back to school…or maybe not
Slowly but surely, schools are reopening (and then closing) and trying their level best to continue with the year and finish the syllabus that has been set out by Angie and her. The term dates have changed and the Minister of Education has told teachers and parents not to be anxious and to stay calm. Teachers must go back to teaching and parents must go back to work. It sounds so straightforward and simple, doesn’t it? Nope, it’s actually not that easy. Let’s see why.

Children must be children
Some students have gone back to school clutching their little bottles of sanitizer, their face masks, and vizors and reciting the 6 golden Covid19 rules like a mantra, drilled into them from mom and dad (and if you don’t know what the 6 golden rules are, ask your child). Teachers that I’ve asked have said how well the kids have adapted to the new rules and the new normal and they are just really happy to be back to see their friends and their teachers. Parents must just drop and go at the gate and fetch on time. Schools are being cleaned and sanitized before being locked up and ready for the next day.

What about the others?
There are those that are not able to return to school for reasons that are simply beyond their control. Maybe they live with an elderly grandparent or someone whose immune system is compromised, maybe they have a health complication like asthma, or maybe having to travel into school on public transport is just too scary at the moment. Whatever the reason, is it fair that they are now excluded from the classroom? Of course not, it’s not their fault. So what are the options?

Schools can just send work home…not?
Parents can appeal to the school to keep virtual schooling going (if they provided that in the first place) or if not, to send homework packs to be completed at home. The work is sent back, and the next lot of work can be collected and so on. With this option, there’s no teaching happening at all, it’s just work to be done. There’s little or no communication between the child and his classmates and teacher. The parent is the middleman between the child and their classroom. The parent ensures that the work is completed or they might be looking for tutors to come to the home and work with the children on their school work. And the school fees? Good question! In an ideal world, as long as the teacher is providing the work, the parent should still pay the fees. Provided that they are still in a position to do so.

What if Parents Cannot Pay?
It’s completely understandable that parents might also be in a financial crisis due to salary cuts or loss of their work. Anxieties are sky high and parents are looking for schooling alternatives for their children. What are their options, if they can no longer pay fees? Keep their children at home and just see the year out? But the uncertainty about the rest of this year and 2021, is almost debilitating. How will they keep their children stimulated and learning if they aren’t going to school? They can homeschool but what curriculum do they use? How do they juggle their own work (if they are still working) and school?

Something different, perhaps?
In the face of events that are scary and largely out of our control, it’s important to be proactive about what you can control.
Know what your budget is for your child’s education for the rest of the year. It might be very different from what it used to be but at least have an amount in mind.
Decide if you need or can afford a “boxed curriculum” for them to do at home or whether you’re going to bring in a mix of resources that are available. There are loads and it can be confusing and overwhelming, once you start researching this.
Know what resources you have. If you know in your heart that you will not be able to homeschool your child, then don’t. Your relationship with your child is way more important than textbooks and worksheets.
If you are looking for a tutor or a cottage school, a learning center or a virtual school, a box of textbooks, or a solution that suits your family and your child…That’s something different. It’s not a one size fits all solution, especially not during these times.

Imagine if…
Imagine if out of all this confusion and uncertainty, we can cultivate the perfect environment to grow a different type of learner, an ‘educational outlier’? If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “Outliers”, you’ll know that he refers to “people whose achievements fall outside normal experience”. I am of the opinion that this upheaval in the education space presents a unique opportunity to actually create a large number of outliers by leveling the educational playing field for people who wouldn’t otherwise have the necessary circumstances to become outliers. How exciting is that?
I do think that the future of education involves some online learning, a passionate and caring adult or mentor, a student with a thirst for knowledge or an inquiring mind, and the learning opportunities that present themselves. By applying Gladwell’s concept of the outlier to online education, we see a two-prong approach. First, we must determine if online education is creating or has created outliers and then investigate if it is possible to harness the unique individualizing potential of online learning to actually cultivate outliers.

Now I’m not suggesting that we whip all our children out of school and turn them into “outliers” overnight. That’s not what I’m suggesting. I’m merely challenging the status quo and wondering, as you probably are too if there’s a silver lining on this Covid19 cloud.
In the next blog, I’m going to go into more detail on how these “outliers” are cultivated/created/developed/nurtured…whatever and I’ll unpack these 3 main conditions that need to occur. Who knows, you might have one living under your very roof!

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