Over Father’s Day weekend, we spent three nights in a small campground about an hour west of our home. It was a great opportunity for our family to enjoy some time together. A day into our trip, a new camper arrived in the campground. If we couldn’t tell by the number of tries it took to get the camper backed into his spot, setting up his camper would most definitely set him apart from others that had camped before. Most experienced campers know that the first thing you must do with a camper is to get it level, balanced, and disconnected from your vehicle. After that, you can begin to put down your stabilization system and attach all of the extra hoses. Only after all of this is done can you get ready for your time of rest and relaxation. This guy was definitely new; he started at the end of the checklist and worked backwards. By the time he got around to try and get his camper level, he had already put out his slides, hooked up his power and sewer, and even put out all of his stabilizers. It was a real show to watch as he then worked desperately to get his camper off his truck and get it level. I really wanted to help, but my wife was fearful that he was already agitated and that I would only add to his frustrations. As I sat and watched, she reminded me that we were all new to this at one point or another, and we all had to learn those lessons at some point.
The lessons we learn in one season should be preparation for the next. This will be especially true when we start back to school in the fall. While school will look fundamentally different than ever before, those that take what they learned last spring and use it well will be the ones that thrive in this new normal. Lessons learned the hard way are usually some of the best lessons. As we learned to quickly transition from face to face learning opportunities to online instruction, we were novices. We made mistakes and hopefully noted what worked and didn’t work. It is very likely we will be called on to use those skills we developed to help students in the coming year.
We will all face challenges that are new to education when we start back to school in the fall. Some parents will be ready to give us their children every day and return to a normal existence. Other parents will be hesitant to send their students to school and want to shield them, as much as possible, from the risk of infection. We owe it to each of these students to find a way to help them grow. We will have second graders that are on grade level, having read every day for the last six months. Some will have worked regularly with tutors throughout the summer. Some of these students may have grown academically since they walked out of our doors in March. They may be sitting beside students that have opened a book for the last six months. Some students will need additional help to get back to where they were when we left. It is fair for us to expect gaps. The gaps will come in how our communities view the risk of schooling, in philosophies of how we provide education and in academic levels. Those schools that become successful in this new normal will be the schools that embrace the challenges and changes of how we deliver meaningful instruction. We must embrace this new environment before we can hope to begin to close the gaps that have developed in the last few months.
I find it incredibly rewarding to sit by my camper, smelling burgers on the grill and watching the flames from our campfire. There is a satisfying peace in being able to sit around with our family telling stories and enjoying their company. It takes preparation on the front end to enjoy the reward of rest and relaxation. The reward is worth all of the work on the front end. For educators passionate about student growth, the reward is similar. We must teach our students to put in the effort and dedication early in life. We must help them learn from their mistakes. If we do this well, we see those students grow into successful adults.
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” -Oscar Wilde