There’s a lot of negativism about what might happen this coming fall when the schools reopen. Wouldn’t it be great if we could apply our creativity to this situation and come up with ideas that might produce a more positive learning environment for our children and a more fulfilling teaching environment for their teachers? I have a germ of an idea for the coming school year that I want to offer up to get people thinking. No pride of authorship here, but please don’t start by telling me it can’t be done. Instead, think about whether it might be valuable if we could get it done. Or, toss it away completely, but only if you offer your own suggestion!

So, here’s the deal. I think we all recognize that there is a high likelihood that some portion of the curriculum will be taught remotely, or virtually, or whatever you want to call it. This might happen on a daily basis, a weekly basis, or from time to time when disease outbreaks force school closings.  (Other students who are at medical risk might even spend the whole year working remotely.) I think we all know, too, that online learning attempts can lead to uneven results at best. What if there were some way to engage students as teachers’ aides for other students?

Imagine, for example, that a high school student was assigned a pod of five younger students. Their job would be to meet virtually on a regular basis with the group during their out-of-school intervals and review the teacher’s latest assignments, helping with problems and reinforcing good results. To be clear, they would have conversed with the teacher beforehand to get a sense of expectations; and they would also report to the teacher regularly on students’ progress. (The 1:5 interactions could even start during in-school sessions, to create the foundation for connections that would come into play during the out-of-school intervals.)

Now visualize a cadre of such students at various grade levels through the school system. Beyond the outreach assistance that they would offer the teachers and beyond the help they could offer the younger students, we would have created a growth opportunity for the teachers’ aides. For one thing, their own academics will improve because–as we know–you really have to learn something to teach it. For another, imagine the sense of personal responsibility and growth that would come with the role. (For those applying to college, there would also be another notch on their belts to toss into their applications.)

Think, too, about the possibility that some of our teachers will be unable to return to school at all–even when classes are in session–because they are at high risk with regard to the virus. I can’t imagine they want to stay home detached from a profession they love. Perhaps they could have a role here, providing training and support to the teachers’ aides and helping to coordinate lesson plans between the in-school teachers and the teachers’ aides.

OK, go at at it!  Please, no gloom and doom comments. Let’s hear things that would enhance the school year rather than grousing about what could make it worse.

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