“If you need to be right before you move, you will never win. Perfection is the enemy of good… Speed trumps perfection. And the problem we have in society at the moment is everyone is afraid of making a mistake. … The greatest error is to be paralysed by the fear of failure.”
– Michael Ryan, Executive Director, World Health Organisation
COVID-19 has forced us all to pause. The planet is being given an unexpected break and we are all forced to take one, too. Certainty has been derailed. Systems are under strain. The mechanisms of routine are broken. And we mourn these things, feeling natural anxiety, vulnerability and loss at where we will go next. The unknown is unfamiliar ground for most of us. As the pandemic turns the world upside down, more than a billion young people are contending with closed schools. When future generations and historians reflect on this moment in time, one wonders which narrative will prevail? How did we respond? Most importantly, what did we learn from this experience?
We will recover from this. When we do, how might schools be changed for good? Here are some things we are learning. Some of these things many of us already knew or at least sensed or believed, but not with the clarity that these times demand. Some of us are fortunate to work in schools where many of these beliefs are embraced, but our new landscape will require some radical new thinking. We are obliged to give serious consideration to the implications of each in the months ahead.
- Community is the most important thing. Learning is ultimately social. We need to be together.
- We need to trust teachers to do what is best for kids. They will not let us down.
- Isolation is hard going. Learning on a screen all day is exhausting. Wellbeing is a real priority now.
- A school day does not need to have 7-8 hours. There are different ways of being together.
- Sharing our experiences, resources, time, emotions and skills is good for all of us.
- Our instincts of caring and empathy are being re-established.
- The obsession with testing and measurement is giving way to a new consideration for the psyche.
- We will emerge with a greater appreciation for the arts, creativity, resilience and critical thinking.
- A hybrid of quality, tech-based distance learning and social interaction will be in great demand.
- New student-first business models for schools will be required in the future.
Our vulnerability as a society has been exposed. The inclination to place each aspect of the learning process into the neat compartments of an age-old system can’t simply be returned to without a significant re-think. We have to view our current circumstance as an opportunity to reconsider where we have been with a greater capacity for agility, imagination, and resilience going forward. This may not be a one-off disruption. A new value proposition will emerge. It is clear that we need to take better care of the planet, ourselves, and each other. This requires change. The possibility that we might fail to reflect on these needs seems unimaginable right now. Let’s hope we do not lose this opportunity to complacency or fear.
When future generations and historians reflect on this moment in time, one wonders what narrative will prevail? How did we respond? Most importantly, what did we learn from this experience?
If we need to be right before we move, we will never win.
[Originally published as a guest post on Silver Lining For Learning: Conversations About the Future of Education.]