Independence is the top of the pyramid of life and the pyramid of learning. Because the education landscape has changed overnight, if there was ever a time when the goal of independence should be actively pursued by every student, it is now.
What was a ‘fine dining’ experience of knowledge being served on a silver platter in classrooms has now been replaced by personal kitchens; not even a ‘buffet’ where students could just wait their turn. Students must recognize that learning has now become THEIR JOB, almost entirely. The future is too uncertain, especially in the provision of education, as we have traditionally known it.
With education being ‘free’, it was easy to take it or leave it; to successfully achieve, benefit from, survive or ignore. COVID-19 has changed that completely. So, formal education is NOW really about the involvement of all students, and their parents, in the level of personal learning they wish to embrace. What we have seen in the last few months is that the self- motivation to achieve independently, dictates those who are able to ‘feast’ on success.
There is no alternative now, but to harness self-reliance and self-regulation – ‘conscious personal management that involves the process of guiding one’s own thoughts, behaviours, and feelings to reach goals’.
I have not read of any government-led school system in the world that has a practical solution of what happens next, facing the predicted yo-yo of COVID outbreaks. It is obvious that classrooms must accommodate fewer students and online teaching is far more effective teaching 15, than teaching 30. There is a point of efficacy in numbers because children require management.
The physical distancing that protects lives will alter every aspect of attending school, especially the close social activities and interactions that attract parents to place their children in ‘big’ schools. The level of adult supervision that is required for safety in a large environment is just unrealistic and unsustainable.
As much as we all want ‘normal’ to resume, we have to face that it may never do so. Therefore, we either wait and see, or decide to act, making uncomfortable, proactive changes in how learning happens. Even the best-case scenario of students having two or three ‘live’ lessons each day is inadequate. Unless they find a way to tap into independence early, thereby effectively driving their own learning, academic progress will slow down for most, and disappear for some.
Parents know what I am talking about. The majority have already witnessed it, with considerable dissatisfaction. So a pro-active, paradigm shift has to happen. Grumble if it makes you feel better, but face the fact that independence on an individual level, and changed practices on a family level, are the best tools moving forward into uncertain times.
Mathematical models predict that COVID-19 will be with us indefinitely and schools, IF they re-open, will have to close again before the end of the year. So, here’s my advice on what to put in place now.
Ensure your child has two things: a well-lit, comfortable and distraction-free work space separate from an entertainment area where they can unwind and play.
Secondly, create the structure (including rules) that will provide the boundaries of behaviour and expectations of performance.
Every student will now require online access, but therein lies the challenge for parents – how to separate the electronic tool from the toy, so that there is not simultaneous access. Freedom, choice and trust are the catchwords of the adolescent. Parents can choose either to serve these delights liberally or to rigidly portion control them. There is no in between. Set up User profiles in the early; one for learning and one for playing. Never divulge the password for the latter; control entry and monitor duration.
Summer holidays are the perfect time to prepare, particularly for secondary students. Let them start combing the internet for websites, groups, pages and forums packed with information in their subjects for the coming year. Facebook has some amazing groups, like Geo for CXC.
Whatever level a student is promoted to, let him or her (not you) find someone who was there the year before. Note the material covered and the course weaknesses (lack of textbooks, poor notes). If they are entering Forms 4 through 6, have them download the free syllabi from www.cxc.org. Buy them Study Guides. Have them make copies of notes from next level students. This will set them up for INDEPENDENCE.
There is a lot of online information around at the moment with question papers and virtual lessons on YouTube; have them download them before they disappear. Set up folders on Google Drive for each subject and if possible, ask their school to send the new Schemes of Work. Create a personal Resource Library and the means to track syllabus completion.
No student can be truly independent (and enjoy the power it brings) without planning and tools. The secret ingredient is parental control, boundaries and structure. In preparing for the worst, the best will be a magnificent surprise and students will be ready to OWN their personal achievement, whatever way the pendulum swings.
Charles Swindell said, “Success is 10 per cent of what happens and 90 per cent of how you react to it.” Enjoy the summer, but make it count!
Julia Hanschell can be contacted at [email protected]
Read our ePaper. Fast. Factual. Free.
Sign up and stay up to date with Barbados' FREE latest news.