COVID- 19 has impacted everyone in countless ways: in ways we are struggling with now, and ways we have yet to uncover. It has also forced us to reflect on our beliefs and assumptions, including those regarding how we are educating our children. As educators, our primary goal is to prepare the next generation for success in facing “real life challenges.” Well, it certainly doesn’t get more “real” than this! Now is the time to see if the educational models we have developed in our schools truly achieve the goals we have set out to reach. Remote learning has provided us with the ultimate “test” for educators worldwide: Are we actually nurturing emotionally resilient, motivated, creative problem solvers? If so, we should be seeing evidence of this now, at home, when life threw us this unimaginable curve ball.
Here’s a key point to remember: our children can only be expected to demonstrate skills that they have been taught, or rather, that we have taken the time to teach. Our children can show independence if they have been explicitly taught the skill of working independently. They can show the motivation to learn, both during and outside of instruction time, if they have been in a school environment where intrinsic motivation is systematically fostered (and they aren’t depending on rewards and punishments as motivation to learn). They can express their worries, solve problems, and demonstrate compassion if they have been in an environment where emotional intelligence and effective communication has been practiced, such as in classroom meetings. They can demonstrate critical thinking in their work if they have been in a school where critical thinking is nurtured in a process-oriented approach. They can show emotional resilience if they are taught strategies for emotional regulation, such as creating a ”Cool off Spot” and a “Wheel of Choice” which contains personalized options for how to handle emotionally charged situations. They can exhibit creativity if their school has built-in opportunities for children to expand upon classroom learning in uniquely creative ways.
At Irvine Hebrew Day School we are seeing that our students are thriving despite the drastic changes in our daily lives. Their resilient responses stem from the fact that the core skills that have fostered in school, including critical thinking, creativity, communication, collaboration and compassion, are being generalized in this remote setting. Our students are showing a remarkable motivation to learn while exhibiting independence, emotional regulation, interpersonal connection and problem-solving…the very skills needed to flourish in life. The positive responses we have seen at Irvine Hebrew Day School can guide parents and educators alike. This uniquely challenging experience, as troubling as it has been, also brings with it an opportunity for reflection on whether or not our choices and our schools reflect our values and our needs. As we emerge from the present times, let us reflect on how we can make the future brighter than ever for our children.
TAMMY KECES, MA is the Head of School, Irvine Hebrew Day School and Positive Discipline in the school and Classroom Lead Trainer and a contributing writer to Jlife Magazine.