Turning the page
Welcoming the new year brings familiar rituals which also help us to reinvigorate and renew. Like restarting our computer or resetting passwords, the old-school tradition of a paper calendar involves physically taking down the previous year’s calendar and hanging up a new one. As analog time machines, calendars remind us that the future is just a page away. Fast-forwarding through the months is as easy as turning to look at the next photo: a sun-dappled summer barn or perhaps a cliché of clumsy puppies in autumn leaves. As we face the prospect of the uncertain year ahead, a paper calendar reassures us that months are only separated by the width of a piece of paper. We can peek ahead to see what’s coming: friends’ birthdays remain predictable and familiar celebrations continue to punctuate the rhythm of the year. And while schools have changed during the pandemic, the academic year also provides an important anchor for many of us. With teachers and students returning from holiday vacations this month, schools offer stability and an important focus in uncertain times.
One could argue that education has changed as much in the past two years as it has in the past two centuries. By necessity, we have unbolted learning from the physical space of the classroom and accelerated the evolution of education: from Horace Mann’s factory schools of the industrial era to personalized and digitized ecosystems of the twenty-first century. On one hand, this shift has highlighted inequities for multilingual learners and their families. On the other hand, the pandemic has redefined schools as a valuable point of connection for the entire community. Teachers are heroes and essential front-line workers: caring adults providing both academic and social-emotional support for students. Schools continue to serve as the heart of a community, and when school is more than a place, it requires teachers, students and families to collaborate in new ways.
Two years ago, organizing, scheduling and executing hundreds of parent-teacher conferences using a video platform like Zoom would have seemed a daunting and futuristic challenge. Today it almost seems second nature. Students, teachers and parents regularly connect on mobile devices for video conferences and maximize the portability and flexibility of our digital world. Welcoming this new year, school communities look ahead eagerly, and in some cases anxiously, for guidance about what the next semester will hold. Schools have helped families make sense of a changing world: teachers have modeled courage for young children, schools have incorporated COVID-19 testing into weekly routines, families have learned to pack extra masks along with school lunches.
As our new landscape is changing teaching and learning, it is also changing teacher learning. At WIDA, we’ve developed new tools to connect teachers and leverage the power of the global education community. The WIDA Virtual Institute continues to empower and inspire educators to connect testing to teaching. The WIDA Global Community of Practice offers a space for schools to harness innovation and share strategies for working in today’s changing schools. Whatever 2022 holds for your school, we welcome you to join the conversation and we remain your partner in learning.
Sersala ve Mibarek be,
Jon Nordmeyer, WIDA International Programs director
*Kurdish: Happy New Year