What Will Be the New Normal?

November 11, 2021

By Joan Lee Husted

In the one hundred years of HEA’s existence, there have never been two school years like the past two. Schools will never be the same. Thank goodness! And that will be a good thing if we do it right.

Many of us who have retired from teaching or administrating do not recognize schools or students today. No longer do kids sit in nice, neat rows listening to teachers lecture from the front of the room. No longer are classrooms silent with only the teacher talking unless a student is answering a question or reciting a lesson. Classrooms at all levels are full of activity, motion and sounds. And of course, virtual learning.

Most students today are digital natives. They are growing up with the internet, computers, smart phones and TVs with hundreds of channels and streaming services. They do not know how to read an analog clock, they print rather than do cursive writing, and a dial phone would throw them for a loop. All digital equipment and activities are second nature to them.

A good share of teachers are digital immigrants who are learning how to manage the internet, computers and smartphones. Teachers who are digital immigrants are rushing to keep ahead of the students they work with. When my mother took a course in computers at Kapiolani Community College, their lab work was at an elementary school, and they were supervised by six graders. And when I go into the Apple store and see an 18-month-old sitting on a bouncy ball playing with their iPad, I realize how much I need to learn.

What will schools look like when we return to “normal?” And what will be “normal?” Many teachers and administrators will wonder what planet they landed on. This column will focus on students for whom all or most of their school experience is virtual.

Digital natives will be most students in schools, and woe to the educator who is not keeping up with the technology. I expect to see whole public schools taught digitally. Currently, only a charter school is solely taught with distance learning. Hybrid schools will be quite common with some classes taught virtually; some classes mixed with some students in the class learning virtually while others are seated in the classroom.

Our students are different. If parents and schools do not prepare for it, many students will be isolated because they are learning virtually and have no social interaction. As Jodie Cheff, the Interim Principal of Waialae Elementary Public Charter School, said during our recent virtual event, “Sparking Our Passion,” how do we do social activities for the students who are doing all their formal education virtually? We forget that schools are one place that we socialize children.

Dr. Nathan Murata, the Dean of the College of Education at UH Manoa, warns of Zoom fatigue and urges educators to get the students up and moving. Stop the lessons and have the kids stretch, move around the room and get them out of their chairs. Even in a hybrid classroom, students learning virtually and students seated in the classrooms can do physical activity together. That will be a new experience for most of today’s educators.

Perhaps one of the startling events creating our new normal is the reality that not all the teachers working in our schools will live in Hawaii. To offset the teacher shortage or where too few students want to take a specific subject, teachers from all over the world may be recruited to instruct virtually in Hawaii. Granted, it will take a change in the State law, and the Hawaii Teachers Standards Board will have to develop new rules and regulations. Administrators and HSTA will have to work out ways to evaluate these remote teachers, and it should make for interesting parent-teacher conferences.

I am sure you can think of other systemic digital changes that create the new normal. Please share them on our webpage.

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