IT’S the tiny moments with their poignancy that overwhelm.
It was a brief video on Twitter that struck me right in the heart and brain, among the numerous and varied accounts of teacher fear and despair, student rage and concern, and laundry lists of political mishaps.
The nifty little movie was intended to show students who would return to school after months away just how their classroom had altered to adjust to the corona virus’ physical distance.
Strong music, attractive visuals, articulated clearly – obviously, the teacher had put a lot of thought and effort into making it right. Then, there are two lines of tape on the floor at the very end.
The students did not have to cross the first line, and without a mask, the instructor did not have to cross the second line.
The tape was not black and yellow caution tape, but rainbow colored. It was the information that won me over. An effort to make an unpleasant thing a little less awful.
Stop there and think about it. Here is a teacher who clearly has a passion for his profession. One, you suppose, who’s committed to it. But now, this unexpected unseen barrier between the student and the teacher.
It’s easy to compliment teachers, just as praising NHS workers is easy. Of course, there are bad instructors, and there is, of course, corruption among medical professionals.
Yet the vast majority care intensely for their students and their profession, and since the pandemic started, they and their students have not had a break.
Although there is worry about the Christmas break and the safety of the classroom, there is alarm about examinations now. The cancellation was the correct decision, not least to alleviate the concerns of students and teachers about the confusion that plagued them throughout the year. Certainties have been traumatically missing since March, and both young people and workers will benefit from stability.
However, the education system will include several individuals who will ask why a decision has taken so long.
“The Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association called for the 2021 exams to be cancelled in late April, and the EIS joined in June, claiming it was “impossible” to be “business as normal” for next year’s exams. Opposition politicians, most notably Ross Greer of the Scottish Green Party, joined the unions.
In August, we had the desperation and confusion of the exam results this year, the debacle of the algorithm that chose to punish students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds rather than trust the judgment of teachers. Then an about-face, then a failed vote of no confidence in the secretary of education.
John Swinney then indicated that a decision on the Higher and Advanced Higher exams would take until mid-February, since the National 5s had been canceled by then.
The tests have now been cancelled – however, with the few training days remaining in the academic year, a debate is ongoing about how teachers will even have enough time to prepare for an alternative method.
In recognition of the additional workload, the Scottish government has given teachers a one-time bonus, but I think for many it’s not about the money. It’s about the sheer lack of understanding and appreciation for the position of educators.
I’ve written this before, but seeing the wide and varied spectrum of social problems raised for public debate that always ends with “This is what should be taught in schools.” is exhausting.
We might say goodbye to English and math time if the amount of additional topics suggested each year were actually applied to the curriculum.
There is a belief that schools can have a magic cure, and the Covid 19 pandemic has expanded this presumption of the magic wand. You can put money in the hands of teachers, but more hours in the day is what they need. With that, good luck.
Now is the time to find long-term solutions, with labor unrest looming. One of the few reliefs in the pandemic has been the awareness that lives can be changed for the better. It is not necessary to allow everything to return to the unsatisfactory state that it was in before the epidemic.
So here’s school, and here’s the framework for tests. Exams for 2021 are postponed, but for 2022 there is nothing to stop them from being restored.