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Transforming How We Work and Learn

Much has been written and discussed about how Covid has--and will, and might--change our lives. First, pause to remember those whose lives it ended . . .

Okay. Perhaps the biggest change was how the pandemic forced all of us to just go home: leave our offices and schools and learn to work remotely. While Zoom jokes and memes were fun for a while, what really changed?

Many employers had already been allowing their employees to work from home one or two days a week. For those folks, they just started doing it every day. While going a little stir crazy and missing human contact were challenges, lots of people found working from home an upgrade: less noise and distractions, more freedom to control their work environment. For much more on that, see the Wall Street Journal article linked above by management guru Adam Grant.

But we can't ALL work from home. Those dubbed "essential workers" by the pandemic--truck drivers, grocery store workers, medical professionals, teachers--have to physically show up, or life as we know it will seize up and stop. What are the takeaways for people in those fields? The post-Covid difficulty of finding qualified people for just about all positions will likely force some difficult adjustments. Those may be positive, like better pay and more respect for our "essential workers."

In his article, Adam Grant discusses the new freedoms workers have come to enjoy and want more of as a result of Covid. As an educator, I wonder what this means for students. While there have been significant moves in recent years to allow students more choice in their learning, most of those changes have affected older students, like high schoolers being able to attend college courses or do job shadowing. But what about elementary and middle school students?

Nearly everyone agrees that the remote learning experience during Covid was a disaster--especially for poor, minority, and special needs students. Most teachers, parents, and students are thrilled to be back to in-person learning. But have we learned anything from the Covid experience?

We are all people who need routine in our lives. The yearning to "return to normal" after 2020 is palpable and in many ways healthy. But what about the students for whom going back to school isn't a joy? What can we apply from our Covid-induced wisdom to help the millions of students for whom school is a daily grind of challenging or boring classes they don't want to take and peers they'd rather not be around? Can we bring fresh wisdom to what is perhaps education's most ambitious and important goal: truly engaging ALL students in the joy of learning?

I don't have a magic bullet, and these problems are not new. But at least beginning to question how we might do better may point us in the right direction.

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