Like many, I had turned off the music and tuned in to listen to the Premier and Minister of Education this afternoon. We had been promised that today would be the day that an announcement about the rest of the school year would be made. Would students be going back to the physical building or would they continue their studies at home?
This regular event was broadcast from a studio as per normal with a camera, audio, and just the participants in attendance. Government by video conference! Just like education by video conference! Somehow, it seemed just fitting that things locked up at the start of the event. I think every educator, everywhere in the province, knew the pain!
But we now know that the year will continue with learning at home and the Minister has promised that there will be report cards.
For all students and particularly the Grade 12 student, the overwhelming question should be “Then what?”
In a perfect year for them, this is the time for big plans. Graduation then world of work, college or university. Will it be plans as usual?
As we look around our communities, businesses have not kicked back into operation. Those students who were planning on entering the world of work are going to be challenged to find employment. Even those businesses that are re-opening are not able to fully employ existing workers, much less take on new ones.
It’s not any rosier in academia either. I know that when I was in Grade 13 (yeah, that long ago), I couldn’t wait to get to university. In the spring of the year, we’d had a couple of school organized tours and I was pumped. I’d figured out where I was going to live – a couple of guys a year older than me had been at university and had an apartment that they’d rented and needed a couple of extra bodies. One of my better friends and I decided we could be those bodies.
When I got my timetable in the mail, I took a day to drive, park, and then locate where the classrooms would be. I was coming from a mindset of high school where you had to be in the right place at the right time. Eventually, everything fell into place and thousands in those first year classes and me stumbled our way through it. We made new friends along the way; learned where the Math Lounge was; where the Campus Pub was; where the bookstore was; where football was played; found a few washrooms; learned how to short cut our way through buildings to get to other buildings; determined what a TA was and why they were so important; found out that you can’t beat Ponderosa’s $.99 steak deal on Tuesdays, how to read a bus schedule (I’d never taken public transportation before) because it was necessary to get to my girlfriend’s place, and probably a whole lot more things that maybe don’t need to be said here. Needless to say, it was a big deal and so exciting. It made high school seem so primitive.
Everyone knows that the balance of this high school year will be different. Now, it’s confirmed. Hopefully, nobody left a cheese sandwich in their locker. What about the fall? I have some friends who teach at universities and speculation has been wild that physical classes in classrooms won’t be happening. Classes will be moved online instead.
The common sense is that the school year will indeed start online. It is the safest way for all and only makes sense.
In the short term, forget about the whole post-secondary life-skill-learning process. Technology willing, online learning will be the next best thing. And, you don’t have to rent an apartment or move into a dorm just yet. Or, maybe even not learn how to shop, cook and clean if you stay at home. C’mon; it’s time to step up.
In many ways, high school forces you to be a student. Attendance is taken in every class and there are serious consequences for missing anything. Part of the post-secondary experience lets you develop time management skills. Your next class might not even be in the same building. Some might be in the evening and often they’re not contiguous. When you think back, it was a huge deal coming from secondary school and the day to day strict regime. For many, it’s the first time living on your own. And cooking, cleaning, meeting schedules, … I can recall many first year students not returning for subsequent years by failing to deal with it all.
With the drop of Grade 13, there’s another expression that I learned about – “Victory Lap”. If you’ve never heard it, it’s taking a second year of Grade 12 to upgrade marks or pick up new courses or delaying the inevitable for a year. It can be a safer option for those that aren’t ready to make the big leap. And, Grade 12 to first year post-secondary is a big leap. I’m thinking of my first year Accounting course delivered in a big theatre.
I’m wondering if many Grade 12 students are considering this as an option. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they weren’t. Academically, I did OK making the move to living on my own and getting my butt out of bed on time for classes. I wonder if I could handle moving to first year university online as successfully. I suppose the best thing is that computer science is no longer done on punched cards where you line up to run your programs and get your output!
Everything else, I suppose, could be done in a Zoom session. At 30 000 feet, it seems do-able. But, should education just be do-able? I wonder if there doesn’t exist an opportunity for post-secondary schools to reach out and partner with secondary schools and their school districts to ease into post-secondary studies by incorporating the best of both worlds. I’m thinking of a modified victory lap for students whose chosen pathway isn’t working out the way that it was planned.
After all, secondary schools want their graduates to be successful. Post-secondary schools want success as well but also registration for the next 2-4 years for their students. Just yesterday afternoon, Alfred Thompson absolutely nailed it in a recent post. Education needs to be more than just do-able.
We live in different times and everyone knows that accommodations are common everywhere just to come to grips with what’s happening. Maybe the call to action should be to re-think beyond just moving online to something even better so that everyone will be successful.