Observations from inside our schools

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 11/3/20

SO ... Everybody breathing normal again? I’d like to share some quick observations about the first two months of this bizarre year of schooling, if I might. Before I start, let it be noted that my …

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Observations from inside our schools


SO ... Everybody breathing normal again?

I’d like to share some quick observations about the first two months of this bizarre year of schooling, if I might.

Before I start, let it be noted that my observations come from my limited point of view. The nature of my job is to see things a mile wide and an inch deep. So don’t assume that I speak for all teachers as I say this — I speak for me.

First of all, the elementary schools I go to — and I know this attitude is shared all across Jeffco — are working their tails off to make sure that school is a safe experience this year. The list of inconveniences that we’ve embraced to be able to have in-person school this year is as long as my arm. And NOBODY is complaining about any of it. Having done remote last spring, teachers have been eager to embrace whatever we have to to be able to work with students in person this year.

Secondly, I think you will find that when (if) we get to the other side of this pandemic, the new technologies and tools that teachers and students have had to become fluent with will noticeably change education. And that’s a good thing! I, and my colleagues, are spending a good chunk of our teaching time putting lessons on video, and creating backup materials for students to peruse on their own, and creating opportunities for students that did not exist seven months ago. When the day comes that we get to teach our students fully in person, and then to also have these new resources … Game changing.

But thirdly, and we have to be real about this, whatever gaps we were concerned with before have the very real possibility of becoming absolute chasms. Of course, we all know about how difficult this sort of schooling is for students with spotty internet connections; but, what nobody seems to be talking about is a self-realization gap. Or maybe it should be called an advocacy gap. I’m sure somebody smart can come up with a good term for it.

Whatever that term actually is, here is what it means: the difference between students who are self-motivated, responsible, and able to understand and act in their own best interests, and those who need constant prodding and reminding to do what will make them successful.

Is this a matter of ethnicity? No. Is it a matter of socio-economics? To some degree, yes, though you simply can’t state that upper-middle class kids take care of business naturally — that’s not always true. And you can’t say the opposite of the other end of the spectrum, either. This is a complex sociological construct that has its roots in the home and the home’s values, is deeply influenced by a thing we educators call “executive function,” and can easily be effected by a number of external factors.

But I think it is indisputable that kids who are good at taking care of business will do just fine and even thrive in during this time of remote and/or hybrid learning, and kids who struggle with taking care of business will lose the better part of two years of their education. That is why I am, and will continue to be, an advocate for in-person learning, especially at the elementary level, for as long as it is remotely possible: kids at the bottom of advocacy curve — who are sometimes brilliant and funny and talented — benefit most from having a relationship with an adult in the room.

In an unrelated note … major shout out to the Real Colorado Edge Soccer Club for putting together a real season for our kids this fall. I’ve been critical in the past of club sports, but I gotta hand it to the Edge on this one — great job. It couldn’t have been easy. Thank you for providing one small island of normal life among all this other … 2020.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His new novel, “Charon’s Blade,” is available at Amazon.com, on Kindle, or through MichaelJAlcorn.com.” His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.


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