With the recent extension of the lock-down and subsequent plan to reopen schools from the Easter Break as from next week, there’s every likelihood that some school leaders are agitated. You’re not alone if you feel unprepared. But then, you have to do what needs to be done to get your team prepared for school no matter how overwhelming it may seem at this time with all the recent happenings. Everything happening is rather strange even to the best of people.
It is likely that you have chosen the virtual platform for your schools teaching and learning since students are not expected to resume physically to school. If you have not, hurry up with the plans. Luckily, there are a host of platforms to choose from now. Your choice, however, will depend on several factors amongst which would be the kind of parents you deal with in your school.
You see, each school has its peculiar situations and what works for one school may not necessarily work for yours. Avoid copying everything another school is doing.
So, let’s get to it now.
What kind of parents do you have? I mean the socioeconomic level of the parents here. This matters in the choice of platform you’ll make. Are they exposed, adaptable and up to trend with technology? Will they be able to afford a laptop computer for each of their children? You must realise that not every parent can afford a computer for each school-aged child in the family.
And then, there is the internet cost in our climes. Will they afford the data required to keep an online school running for a full day and for a period we are all even uncertain about? And have I reminded you that some families have as many as four or five children?
What about your teachers? Have they been properly trained on what to do? Have you test-run your plans and taken notes of the challenges you will face? Or do you think it’s going to be some seamless switch to the new way of learning? Are your teachers familiar with digital learning and teaching? As sad as it may sound, quite a number of teachers were not bothered about this until now. Everything going on right now is suddenly like a wake-up call to their tech skills.
What about the students? Do you think they will be excited to learn online? Will you be surprised to know that their excitement might not be sustained for too long about the learning platform unless a deliberate effort is made to keep it so? School age children love to be on the internet but a lot of times they visit for other reasons other than to learn. It will take some effort to keep their attention on their studies on the internet. Have you also considered age-appropriateness for each platform you choose?
Be patient though. Find a platform that works for you. I know a school that simply opted for the WhatsApp platform because of the kind of parents they have. It’s easier to manage for them. Remember it is about teaching and learning; it’s not a status thing to display and show off who uses the trendiest technology. Once your parents, students and teachers can use the platform and it works for you, that’s it.
A little research will go a long way to help, because you actually have a lot of options. Apart from the popular Google Classroom and Microsoft Classroom, Edmodo, WhatsApp and Zoom, there are a whole lot of other options.
You also need to address the following:
How much are you charging the parents as school fees? If they had been paying for tuition, co-curricular activities, sports and school lunch, then you may need to consider a slight reduction. But let parents know ahead of time. Explain to them that your staff members will still need to be paid their salaries. And by the way, the teachers will be working far more than before, as it involves a lot of planning to get it right with the new system and structure in place.
How do you intend to take care of the huge expenses involved with the internet data required to get your virtual learning platform running? Will the teachers need to sacrifice some of their money to do this, while the school bears a part of the cost? Or will they use their transport fare for the month to fund this, considering that they will not need to transport themselves to work for this period? Whatever you have decided, ensure everyone is communicated to in very polite but clear terms. Remember communication is key in administration and leadership.
Do what you can to boost the morale of the staff. A little motivation and pep talk may help at this time. And do not expect perfection. It will come with its challenges as you transition. Be patient, I say again. Be patient, even with yourself.
Reach out to an older professional in leadership or administration if you need a little help. Or even to a school that’s already getting it right.
I wish you all the very best as you resume for the third and last term of the session.