The correct message

It has been a bizarre couple of weeks in Ontario. In just a few more, school buildings will be reopened and the current plan is for students to be in the classroom learning face to face for 50% of the time secondary and 100% of the time elementary, starting from the first day of school.

Well, that appeared to be the message until this week when the Minister indicated that he would be open to a staggered start for schools. Well, some sort of staggered start; some of the proposals were turned down and so school districts are back to the drawing board this weekend.

Ottawa’s public school board making changes to plans for in-person and remote learning this fall

I’ve been reading school district plans and they’re written as only a educational source can do. Long PDF files written to appease the Ministry of Education but it even leaves someone like me who thrives on this stuff wondering and wanting to ask questions.

So, districts will have a plan and individual schools will be required to put the plans into action at their location. Then, individual classroom teachers will be next to put things together.

Think about all the variables:

  • older buildings without air conditioning
  • newer buildings sealed because they have air conditioning
  • portable classrooms
  • busing and debusing
  • kiss and ride
  • before school, after school
  • recess
  • different cohorts
  • lunch / nutrition breaks
  • washroom visits
  • libraries, physical education classes
  • shared resources
  • sanitization stations
  • isolation room, what to do when a student is ill
  • parent visits to school

And I know that this is just the tip of the iceberg. All of these variables absolutely need to be included in a district’s plan. Most parents really don’t need to know all the details; they just need to know what will happen in their and their child’s world. Even something as simple as which door the student enters the school become important because they just might walk into a one way hallway going the other way!

Communication between classroom and home is going to be more important than ever. Maybe you’ve already thought about or your school has prepared a paper handout to take home that first day or to be mailed out in advance. We know how effective that can be at times.

It’s time to up that communication piece by going digital. Something as simple as a class website or class blog, updated to the minute, will go a long way towards customizing the message solely for the parents of your students. Describing the personal routine of your classroom, the expectations, and requirements will cut through the big deluge of information, policy, mis-information, and huge documents out there. The local newspaper does their best but they can’t customize it for every classroom. Only you can do that.

It’s also the time for open and transparent messages. No hiding behind a barrier which forces parents to log in and then hope to find what they’re looking for. We talk about visible thinking and learning; it’s time to put that into practice. Of course, the practicality of it will require an approval by principal and you’ll be able to easily link to school and district policy. By having control of the information that affects your class, you’re able to be responsive enough to update information easily and quickly as it changes. You might even have the technical ability to create a video showing what door is entered and how you’re expecting students to get to class and then sit in their assigned seat.

I know that I’m preaching to the choir with some of the visitors to this blog. I’d like to know how you plan to leverage what you’re doing for this fall. Your experience and thoughts might just be the wisdom that encourages others to get connected.

4 thoughts on “The correct message

  1. Hi Doug!

    Thanks for this insight – I’m always interested in seeing how my birth country does things in education : )

    It’s kind of the same here in Switzerland, with a few differences. Elementary and secondary are going back 100%, with clear guidelines, whereas in further education (which is my part-time employment), it depends on the school. I’m a bit unsure as to how we will be doing things in one of my institutions – the long PDFs you mentioned reminded me of a lot that I had to read the past few days ; ) And I also still have a load of questions.

    Have a great week,


  2. Thanks Doug! You know my love of blogs, and that hasn’t changed. Many Boards, ours included, have adopted one or two online platforms for educators to use. We can still create and use a blog, but only for certain purposes. It’s interesting as I blogged a bit about this topic yesterday. This is one of my struggles right now:

    I appreciate your push for openness and transparency. Now to find a way to do this and meet Board requirements. It’s not always an easy thing to do.



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