It is May and time for graduation ceremonies, which are generally called “a commencement,” meaning a beginning.
This year’s ceremonies will truly be recognition of completion. Normally, graduation plaudits go to the students, yet this year recognition is deserved by parents, teachers and administrators as well.
This school year has definitely been the most challenging experienced in recent history. The pandemic presented many barriers to proper education. At times, students had to learn from home, and at other times, some students were in school while others participated remotely. Students had to be socially-distanced while at school and sanitation became a part of the academic schedule.
How students attended classes was not the only challenge. COVID testing, worry about symptoms and restrictions on movement complicated life. Then, there are parents who worked and had to find childcare for their children attending school from home. The school district had to ensure all students had access to virtual learning, when that was the only means of attending class.
Teaching a class with diverse needs is the normal task for a teacher. But this year they had to plan to teach while seeing students’ faces on a computer monitor. It was not a simple task, and teachers adapted and helped their students reach this point. Administrators had to deal with changing rules, and keeping faculty, staff and parents informed about the latest dictates on student attendance and efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus.
Since much of the learning this year has been virtual, I offer some virtual awards. A virtual certificate of merit to all parents who helped their children navigate this difficult academic year. A virtual medal of valor to all teachers who had to demonstrate flexibility to deal with ever-changing rules, and who extended the time they spent on planning to give their students a chance to learn. The award for administrators should not be virtual, since they must receive some real peace and quiet, to get themselves prepared for the 2021-22 school year.
Some Americans have raised concerns about the loss of learning that has occurred due to the craziness of the school year. We will find students are resilient, and teachers have always adapted to new challenges. There may be some new challenges as we adapt curriculum to overcome any losses in learning suffered due to the virtual nature of this year, but the lessons learned will be applied to help students be prepared for their futures. I have always been a cautious optimist!
Murray Siegel, Ph.D., has more than 44 years of teaching experience and
volunteers at Butterfield Elementary School.
This column appears in the May issue of InMaricopa magazine.