In that world, if a disaster hit, school would be shut down, shuttered and not reopened until the coast was clear. But luckily, we are not living in that world. We are living in a time and place where almost everyone is interconnected, information transfer and communications are instantaneous, and every home office, kitchen table, and basement rec room can become a combination of classroom and movie studio. This is the new framework for virtual school.
Just to clear, virtual school, as it is just starting to be delivered, is not online learning in the way that it has been practiced in the past few years. What had been "cutting edge" a month ago, is now passé. We are no longer talking about a student completing work and having it marked and returned remotely, where teacher/student contact is primarily by email and text, and the relationship is more clinical than personal. Virtual school is face to face, in real time, with not only teacher or tutor and student interacting, but classmates, popping up around the screen like some 21st century Brady Bunch intro, talking and sharing and joking with one another. To be honest, it's not as good as being together in the same room, but it is way better than the alternatives.
Next Wednesday, April 1st, KGMS goes live (well, virtually live anyway!). There will be an eclectic mix of direct instruction, real-time one on one tutoring, virtual hangouts, small, live, teacher-led learning groups, face to face personal counselling, SLP support, and self-regulation coaching. In addition, students and families will have access to a bank of resources and activities that can enrich learning even when not directly interconnected.
Will it work? Will it do all of the things that currently happen in our bricks and mortar school building? Who really knows?! All I can tell you is that it will be a product of careful and meticulous planning; enthusiastic professionals teaching and learning themselves as things evolve; and students, who will be tentative at first, but who will rise to the occasion and do the best that they can in this new world of school!
The last few weeks have been an incredible roller coaster, all of our lives have been turned upside down and inside out and many of those things that we have always taken for granted have been, one by one, closed or restricted or become too risky to do. Our challenge, in this time of becoming incredibly insular and fearful, is to begin to rebuild community, to reconnect with friends and colleagues, and educators with their students and their families. The COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has now become part of our collective global experience. The larger world will never be quite the same, so let's do our best to preserve the things that we value in our own lives, and work together for the benefit of our children.
Today, for us, is Virtual Day minus 5. The countdown officially started yesterday with a "Zoom" staff meeting with over 75 colleagues reconnecting and decompressing a little bit realizing that they were not alone in facing these new challenges. None of us; students, families, educators, or administrators signed up for this. But here it is anyway!
As I said to our KGMS community this week, Barack Obama had it right in his first Inaugural Address in January 2009 when he said: "The world is changing and we must change with it."
I can guarantee that he wasn't thinking about the world with which we are currently dealing, but it is still good advice for these remarkable times.