Back to What?

By now we’ve all seen the memes—the ones that accurately describe the terror of sending your children to school in a pandemic, and then use the same images to describe the terror of schooling them at home.

Do I send my children to school? Horror! Do I teach them from home? Horror!

It seems there are no good choices.

On the one hand, you want your children to get socialization. On that same hand, you need to w.o.r.k. from home, and it just doesn’t w.o.r.k. to have them underfoot at the same time. On the other hand is, well, COVID.

It all adds up to a back-to-school mess. Think about just a few of the rituals that we aren’t observing this year:

  • Back-to-school clothes? We won’t be needing those! And, just like that, there’s another death knell for the economy.
  • Lunch money? Haven’t you heard…we’re cashless. Oh, go ahead and pay electronically, and good luck with that refund if the school shuts down.
  • School supplies? Let’s see, that’s one laptop computer, one high speed internet connection, and one monthly bill that you weren’t counting on. Especially since your company is cutting back.

Horror, indeed.

Adding to the mess is a complete lack of consistent answers across the nation. While that can be expected, given the various levels of containment, no one has yet come up with the “best” solution. In fact, it’s hard to look toward solutions when we are still sorting out our behaviors.

The chart below, created by our company, is just a sampling of the way behaviors have already had to adjust to the onslaught of change. Like it or not, parents are going to have to be more involved in their children’s education than anything we’ve seen in decades. So, just as we all thought technology would make us more hands off, here we go, doing day-to-day activities formerly assigned to a trained teacher.

This leaves us with more questions than answers:

  1. What happens to the children in neglectful or abusive situations—especially when we’ve relied on teachers to be the reporting bodies.
  2. Who is going to train the parents in educational methods and curriculum?
  3. How do you measure achievement now?
  4. Will homeschooling be reinvented in the process, or will people opt for traditional homeschooling curriculum over a mish-mash of public school options?
  5. What about neighborhood coalitions that step in to trade off schooling chores within small groups?
  6. What if you are in a tech desert?
  7. What if a teacher isn’t prepared to do both seated and online preps?
  8. Oh, and did someone say sports?

Shall I keep going?

There is one thing that is pretty clear: The pandemic is going to continue to affect our approach to back-to-school, just as it is our approach to back-to-work and back-to-life. Pain points include everything from access to funding, from socialization to college admission, and from traditional rites of passage to newly imagined benchmarks.

We’ve proven that we can do just about anything for a short period of time, including stay in our homes, adjust to cooking more, and allow ourselves to settle for seeing grandma through a plate glass window. But long-term?

What, exactly, are we going “back” to? And are we ready for the rate of innovation that will be required?

I’d say fasten your seat belt, but school buses don’t usually have them. Regardless, there’s a long road ahead.