I read an article on CNN recently that included a picture from a classroom dated 1918. I’ve included that photo as the featured pic for this blog post. I was immediately struck by how similar the classrooms of 1918 were to the classrooms of 2020. Desks in rows, desks being the same basic shape still today, everyone facing forward toward the ‘front’ of the room, each student as their own ‘island’ of learning at their own permanent seat, etc. But then it occurred to me, “How could that be? That’s over 100 years ago?!” I even double-checked to make sure that the date on the picture was correct. It seemed unreal to me that classrooms could be so change-resistant over a span of 100 years, but pictures don’t lie.
In my mind I went through a list of items that were around during that time period to see if anything else was as resistant to change. I couldn’t think of anything that was remotely comparable. For instance, do our phones look anything like they did in 1918? Do cars look anything like they did in 1918? Is the food we eat anything like it was in 1918? Are the clothes we wear anything like they were in 1918? Nope.
In all the nightmares that COVID-19 has created in our lives, I still can’t help but search for some shreds of positivity within this confusing and uncomfortable time in history. It was then I realized, public education in the United States IS on the road to changing…permanently and in a positive direction…due to COVID-19. We may not always identify it in a positive way, but incrementally, as educators and families, we’re all learning more effective and efficient skills to deliver instruction, new skills to engage students, and new skills to connect schools to families. All of these new skills fit the time we live in, rather than the time of 100 years ago. Whether it’s virtual classrooms, or parents becoming more involved in their child’s education than they ever have before, or the push to get educational technology in the hands of every child, these changes are happening in every school district in the United States. The change in education has permeated everyone and everywhere, which is unprecedented in my lifetime.
Only time will tell, but I’m quite confident that in the months ahead, as we move through this pandemic, the changes we’re forced to make as educators will permanently change public education in the United States for the better. And then maybe, 100 years from now…pictures of their classrooms will look nothing like the classrooms of today.