5 Changes High Schools Should Consider After This Pandemic

5 Changes High Schools Should Consider After This Pandemic

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that schools, teachers, and students have had to learn to make abrupt, immense changes almost overnight. We have had to adapt, become flexible, and learn technology in enormous ways. And guess what? We are doing it, and we are doing it well, just like teachers always do.

But sooner or later, this will all end, and when it does, we’ll emerge smarter. And with that in mind, let’s think about some changes that high schools should consider making in the wake of this pandemic. As a mom and a teacher, I’m confident these changes could serve the students well.

 1. Sleep

“What’s something you like about online learning?” I posed this question on an online self-assessment to a class of high schoolers. Their response? Almost every one of them mentioned sleeping more. Some of them so desperately craved sleeping more, that online learning trumped going to school and seeing their friends. For the sole reason of getting more rest. Wow! I was slightly floored. Were these teens viewing traditional schooling as a kind of torture method in which we forced them to stay awake past the point of exhaustion? Where they would rather forego seeing friends, participating in sports, clubs, and school activities, and having teachers on hand for extra help all in the name of sleep?

Let’s get real, high school students were severely sleep-deprived before this pandemic. It was evident by the way their heads bopped and eyelids drooped in their everyday struggle to remain awake. Teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep every night. Additionally, teenagers are wired to stay up late and go to bed around 11 PM. Yet, they are required to be up at 6:00 AM or earlier to catch cabs and buses in order to make it to 1st period. So, are later start times something to consider for high school? Wouldn’t we be doing our kids and even ourselves a favor if we had more well-rested, more focused, healthier, overall happier kids in our classroom ready to learn every day? 

2. Fridays

Fridays. The gateway into the weekend. Fridays are already the least productive day of the workweek, so maybe it is time for high schools to consider changing them. During online learning, our school uses Friday as a flex day. A day for teachers to hold office hours and students to catch up on assignments and watch prerecorded videos made by teachers. What if we structured Fridays in a similar way when we all start going back to school in a building? Instead of the traditional block schedule in which students attend their classes, high schoolers would be given the opportunity on how they want to spend their day academically. 

Students arrive at school, perhaps later than normal, and have time to work with classmates in collaborative spaces throughout the building. Teachers could hold office hours in which students can pop in and out. These individual sessions can be required for some students. Later, students can attend seminars scheduled throughout the day. Seminars can be on a variety of topics that teachers often run out of time during a typical school day to cover: finances, applying for college or a job, social-emotional learning, equity issues, meditation, happiness, child-rearing, labor skills, renting or buying a house, how to do taxes, etc. Some students could use Fridays to go off-campus to participate in on-site training, internships, apprenticeships, or college classes.

Likewise, teachers can use Fridays for professional development, seminars for themselves, lesson planning, office hours, 1-1 progress monitoring for special ed teachers, training, scheduling doctor/dentist appointments, or catching up on grading, IEPs, reports, etc. Could adopting such a schedule help increase graduation rate, college/career readiness, and teacher effectiveness?

3. Student Work

Another point that students mentioned in their self-assessment was that they liked the flexibility of working at their own pace with online learning. Maybe with the right scaffolding and training, teachers and students could adopt more of a flipped classroom in which students work at their own pace. A lot of teachers already do this, but will it become more of the norm once we get back into the building?

All the assignments, quizzes, tests, and projects would be posted ahead of time for the quarter or semester. Students would move through the work at the pace that they deem fit. Instead of group lectures and work dominating most of class time, students would use the time collaborating with peers, watching pre-recorded videos, and completing their assignments. Meanwhile, the teacher would be cycling through groups providing meaningful feedback or using the time to conference individually or in small groups with students who may need more explicit instruction. Lots of factors to consider (technology for every student), but could this yield beneficial results?

4. The Human Connection Piece

It comes as no surprise to us teachers that schools provide much more than an academic piece to our students. However, the rest of the world is only starting to wake up now and realize just how much we do. School is a place that provides meals, access to the Internet, a place for a hot shower and somewhere to wash and dry clothes, resources and tools to apply for jobs and colleges, human touch and positive praise students might not otherwise get at home, counseling, nursing, and the list goes on.

I think about my students who are deaf. None of my students’ parents know sign language. School is a place where someone can have a real conversation with them. Likewise, some students who are in wheelchairs are now lying in bed most of the day because they don’t have anyone to help them get up and moving. In all, school is a place for human connection which helps students build a sense of purpose in their lives. 

The legislation and government need to realize just how important the human connection piece is and make adequate changes. Imagine a world where schools never had to worry about having the right amount of funding to provide all that they need for their students ever again… Sounds pretty amazing, right?

5. Cleanliness

The custodians at our school already do a phenomenal job at keeping the building looking sparkly clean. But teachers, no matter what, are on the front line and the first ones to get contaminated when a student comes to school sick. Teachers need to be equipped. They should not have to buy disinfectant and hand sanitizer out of their own pockets to provide to their entire class. Sanitizers, disinfecting wipes or spray, masks, and gloves should all be provided in every classroom. Mandatory handwashing and sterilizing the classroom times could also be implemented.

In addition, it should become standard practice for students and teachers to stay home when they are sick. Too many of us want to suck it up because finding a sub and writing sub plans is hard work or because the school just doesn’t have a sub available. This must change. Subs should be available for every classroom and every teacher, and when teachers are sick, they should not be asked to do more work. Schools need to find a way to become cleaner and safer for all. 

What do you think of these changes? Would they be beneficial? Practical? Possible? Definitely A LOT to consider.

Also Read:

5 Changes High Schools Should Consider After This Pandemic

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My name is Lauren, and I was born in New Jersey, grew up in West Virginia, went to college in Pennsylvania, and now live and work in North Carolina. I'm a high school teacher of the deaf and hard-of-hearing by day, a cross country coach by the afternoon, a writer by night, and a mom to an amazing toddler boy full time. I love my faith, running, watching baseball, chocolate, scrapbooking, pretending I would actually do well on the Amazing Race, re-watching The Office, listening to Bobby Bones, inspiring young minds, and as of recently moming it! 

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