Don’t let history repeat – 1982 All Whites and Covid-19

In 1982 the New Zealand men’s football team, known as the All Whites, made it through to the Football World Cup. It was the first time we had made it that far in such a prestigious football event.
The result was a football boom. Record numbers of players registered over the following seasons, national players became household names and we even had one of the world’s best strikers in our team. The future of Football in New Zealand was on the rise.

Sadly, the momentum gained in the early 80’s was squandered by New Zealand Football. By the 90’s New Zealand football was a mess. Any financial gain, increase in playing numbers or lucrative advertising opportunities had all been wasted. Replaced by infighting, numerous restructures and a clinging on to the ‘way things were’ mentality.

Covid-19 has put New Zealand education in a similar position. We have been gifted a huge opportunity to advance education in this country. Truly, a once in a lifetime opportunity. We have an ability to take our current system and enhance it with the best aspects of remote learning and ICT tools.

Imagine 6 months ago, asking all teachers to work from home for 8 weeks and see if remote learning is any good. We would have laughed at such a suggestion. However, that has been our reality. We stopped ‘normal’ education for 8 weeks and have been working with our classes and colleagues without physical contact. What a gift! What an opportunity!

We have had 8 weeks of playing with a new version of learning.
We have had 8 weeks of observing what is truly important in our classes and schools.
We have had 8 weeks of engaging with new tools.

This unique time has enabled most teachers to upskill within ICT. It has forced teachers to be innovative and collaborate more than they may have thought possible. We have been able to try online tools we were always ‘too busy’ to experiment with. Importantly, we have done this in a relatively low cost environment with plenty of compassion and grace from leaders and parents.

So, what things have I learnt during my 8 weeks of lockdown.

  • remote learning is the great magnifier – inequality with devices is magnified and internet issues compound accessibility.
  • Kids love the autonomy of online learning. They get to choose when and where they do the work.
  • Teaching new content online is hard…very hard.
  • You have to do large amounts of exercise while doing remote learning to not put on weight.
  • There is no perfect online learning tool or student platform – apart from Kiwi Kids News!
  • Kids love school – but mainly they love the social element.
  • We don’t need staff meetings. I have gone 8 weeks without one and I am no less worse off.
  • So much time is wasted daily on daily commutes – I heard this from other people.
  • Remote learning is great for some students and hard work for others – just like normal school.
  • We can now hold faculty meetings at 7pm at night via Teams.
  • Only a small fraction of learning happens in the classroom. Learning is connected to whanau and the internet.
  • Consistency is the key. Students like regular, consistent contact.
  • Year 7/8 students struggle to engage after 1pm during remote learning.

Things I will learn in the next 6 months;

  • Are schools/teachers willing embrace the best bits of online learning and make shifts in timetables, teaching styles and resource allocation?
  • Can schools/teachers change years of culture and tradition quickly?
  • Will schools/teachers be willing to upskill and engage more with parents to ensure greater equitable education?

So it will be interesting to see where we are in 6 months time. Sitting around the Christmas Tree at the end of year staff lunch, which of the comments below will be the loudest….
“Remember in April when we had that crazy 8 week block of home learning. Glad things got back to normal”
Or
“Wasn’t Covid-19 the kick up the pants we needed to move our education system forward.”

Let us hope that Covid-19 is not another ‘1982 All Whites Moment’ in New Zealand’s history? A moment that offered so much opportunity but in the end delivered relatively nothing to the future of New Zealand education.

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