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  • Alana Kole

Next Generation Normal

With only 8 weeks to go until I am fully credentialed and ready to take on my own classroom for the 2021-2022 school year I have been taking time to reflect on my last 4 years in education. Since I began as an afterschool program employee in 2018, fresh from being a student myself at UC Santa Barbara, the educational norm I had become so familiar with has been dramatically altered by the pandemic. The space I entered as an educator was very much unchanged from when I myself was a student. However, partway through my credentialing process, we made the switch to fully online learning in response to the pandemic.

This has pushed me to unlock and explore so many new facets of who I am as an educator, and what public education means to the communities it serves. I have taken my graphic design skills acquired from a college internship and turned them into a tool to create a welcoming learning environment for students to engage with from the safety of their homes. I have watched as education technologies transformed from useful extras to absolute necessities in a matter of days. And, most importantly I have been able to learn the importance of adaptivity in the classroom. Being a student during such a pivotal shift in education has prepared me to teach a generation of learners who’s pathway to education has been dramatically impacted by these circumstances.

Even as our classroom doors reopen and I prepare to complete my student teaching, back in the classroom for the first time in over a year, I know the world of education has been forever changed. Students will return to their beloved campuses, group projects and learning centers will gradually be resumed, and many elements of education will be back to business as usual. However, those of us who had the unique experience of completing our education during this time of uncertainty are equipped to bring a new element to our “normal” classroom.

I am ready to bring technology into my classroom in a way that will provide my students with new ways to engage with class content, new ways to express themselves, and new ways to connect with their communities. I have been taught strategies and developed adaptable lesson plans that can reach a wide variety of learners given ever changing circumstances. All of the innovation we have been pushed into over the last year can only serve to create a more connected and resilient classroom, and I am looking forward to putting this into practice.

The response to the pandemic has also shown that under pressure we are capable of deviating from the norm. We changed the way education has looked for the last 15 years overnight. This adaptability struck a chord for me. While it is easy to fall into a routine that works and feels comfortable, we must remember that our tried and true practices are not necessarily working for every student in our classroom. I want to integrate this flexibility, this willingness to push the envelope and try something new into the next generation of normal education. Let’s make it normal to reshape our practice to accommodate our students and improve their educational experience. We have all grown from the challenges the past year has thrown our way, and I plan to regard this time as a reminder and motivation to embrace flexibility and adaptation under all circumstances, not just the unprecedented ones.

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