Every day, there seems to be another horror story appearing about education in the province of Ontario.
We all know, and are now coming to really appreciate the extent of, that there was no formal plan for the resumption of in-school teaching this past summer. In a perfect world, teaching assignments and class lists would be distributed to teachers in June or July so that planning for the fall could be done. Anyone who is a teacher knows that, while July and August are officially holidays, they are used to very actively acquire additional qualifications and begin the creation of resources for when classes resume.
Most teachers weren’t made aware of their teaching assignments until late August. Horrors of horrors, some students weren’t aware of their classroom assignments as school starts in September.
As schools opened, some were face to face, some were online, and some were some permutation of hybrid. In a profession that loves buzzwords, cohort is used to describe the way of grouping students together. It’s like the use of that word reveals some sort of higher level of organization. The idea is to minimize contact within the school building after the large number get off the bus or before they get back on the bus en masse at the end of the day.
Whew! It’s just Toronto.
Well, no it isn’t. It’s just that Toronto is so large and so easily accessible to the media that we hear of these challenges first – and often. Of course, having the district worrying about some things such as hiring a permanent director of education doesn’t help.
The result of all this is that we’re experiencing Just In Time education. There is no real master plan and districts are having to invent and re-invent themselves as a result of the latest realities. These realities include the change in decision about whether to send students to school or not, the ever increasing numbers of people being identified as positive, the public acknowledgements that teachers are doing their best but are on a slow burn, and parents being brought into the conversation after the fact. How can Thanksgiving be limited to 10 or fewer people while schools remain open and packed in some cases?
As a province, we’re flying by the seat of our pants. Just In Time education seems to be the plan. It may work in the auto industry but this in different. We’re talking about mental health, educational continuity, and student success.
If this was a sporting event, a timeout would be called and all of the players brought together to come up with a plan. The current plan is to announce that Ontario has the best plan, more money has been spent, ya da ya da ya da. We’ve heard this over and over again. The tune doesn’t change.
You can’t tack on pressure on a broken system and expect it to get better. Quite clearly, it’s difficult to have a plan for a good education while careening from issue to issue.
I’m sure that the powers that be would consider having an educational timeout would be a sign of weakness. In reality, I think it would be the best move. The province has had a month of experimenting with this mode of education. Surely, they can’t be happy and feel that nine months more of the same will result in the type of success that a world class educational system should deliver.