Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, almost every school in America closed in mid-March. Districts were given a few weeks to develop a learning plan for the “stay-at-home” environment. Please allow me to summarize what most districts presented to parents, teachers and students. 1) If schools had the ability to use virtual learning, they would utilize this as much as possible (online curriculum, laptops, internet and virtual classrooms like zoom). 2) Schools reduced the number of student-teacher contact hours and study time to make it manageable for the students. 3) Because schools could not guarantee that all students had internet connections, all grades were frozen as of the time that “brick and mortar school” ended. Schools essentially told kids that their grades could not go down. Any work completed at home would essentially be counted as extra credit, thereby improving a student’s grades. In other words, no negative penalty would be provided for not completing assignments.
Joe’s Perspective: The word that most students heard was “voluntary.” When I speak to teachers around the country, they tell me that less than half of their students are participating. Furthermore, these teachers tell me that internet access has little impact on who turns in work. Instead, they tell me, it comes down to two variables: 1) parental expectations (if parents insist the student does the work, the work gets done) and 2) grades (typically those who had better grades are participating).
The Value of Learning: So, the question I have is why do we learn? Why do we go through 13 years of school and then pay thousands of dollars to attend college? If the answer is, “We are supposed to,” or “We have to,” you probably approach school with a certain mindset. And, once the grades are removed, you see no actual need to participate in school. On the other hand, if your answer is, “education is a way to improve myself,” or “the information I learn will help me get the job I want someday,” you approach school with a completely different mindset. For you, grades are just a reflection of what you have learned. You are less motivated by grades and more motivated by learning itself.
In my humble opinion, those who are intrinsically motivated by self-mastery are in a much better position than those who are externally motivated simply by grades. Those who said, “Awesome, my grade will not be affected, I will just skate by with my B,” are at a severe disadvantage to those who said, “Awesome, I get to learn from home, get comfortable with virtual learning (the future) and improve my grade.” Students who participated this semester, gained more knowledge and will be that much further ahead next fall. I would further argue that taking the easy way out is actually only hurting yourself in the long run. On some level, the way you responded to this “learn-at-home” environment says something about your character.
Your Turn: On a scale of 1-10, how much did you participate in the “learn-from-home” plan your school developed? Explain why you are at that number.