School-reopening plans

Harvard staff writer Colleen Walsh asks whether we are “agonizing over school-reopening plans.”

We certainly are!

In fact, that’s all I seem to be reading about these days. Should schools open in-person, remote, or hybrid?

Whether it’s Donald Trump’s screeds insisting that schools must reopen for in-person learning (except for his son’s school, of course) or various Facebook posts about teachers’ legitimate fears of catching COVID-19, lots of people are agitated, including teachers, parents, students, and politicians. So what are we to do?

The article linked to in my first sentence above proposes following the prescriptions of the dread Marie Kondo. If you were reading this blog five years ago, you know that I was not impressed by Kondo’s prescriptions, hence my choice of adjectives describing her. So is there anything worth paying attention to in the Harvard article? After all, it discusses a paper written by researchers from both Harvard and MIT, so it must be worthwhile.


Well, in part. The article recommends “Kondo-ing” school priorities, which makes some sense in the remote and hybrid types of plans. If we can’t teach everything that we used to teach, then we sacrifice what’s merely nice to know and concentrate on what you need to know. That’s always true — although making that judgment is far from easy and people never agree on what’s merely nice to know. Furthermore, although the popular Marie Kondo makes for good headlines in the Harvard Gazette, she’s only one small part of the picture. The article goes on to feature some good points by Harvard professor Jal Mehta, such as this one:

“When people hold these kinds of design meetings with students they often include the editor of the school newspaper, the student body council president, or the head of the debate team. School is already working well for those kids,” said Mehta…. “The person you need at the meetings is the student who was absent 30 times this last year. That’s the kid for whom school is not working.”

Yes indeed.

But the prior questions are how school districts decide among hybrid, in-person, or remote, and In particular how they implement whichever plan they choose. And then the devil is in the details.

I predict we’re all going to be back to fully remote before Thanksgiving.

I’m glad I retired.


Categories: Teaching & Learning