Most Arkansas schools are starting next week, and today I’d like to offer some thoughts as we head into an academic year unlike any in my lifetime.
One of my favorite things about the new school year in Gravette where I grew up was going to McAlister’s Grocery and Hardware store to buy school supplies.
In my day, we bought pencils, Big Chief tablets, and little plastic tubs of white paste with a spreader built into the lid. In high school, we took notes with ballpoint pens in spiral-bound notebooks. Teachers wrote on blackboards with chalk. We learned science with filmstrips and overhead projectors.
The world has changed much since those simple days. Chromebooks and iPads have replaced pen and paper. YouTube has replaced film projectors. Those changes occurred gradually, and we had time to adjust. We didn’t suddenly have to toss out everything that was familiar.
But the pandemic has changed almost everything about life, and it changed it in an instant. It’s as if we woke up one morning to a world where nothing looked the same. That kind of rapid change is understandably unsettling.
COVID-19 has changed education dramatically. Whether you are starting kindergarten or finishing college, this year won’t look like last year. But the basics do remain the same. Teachers will share new concepts with their students. Cafeteria workers will prepare delicious meals. After a week of learning, students will cheer the football team on Friday nights.
We’ve already had some valuable experience in rethinking school. In the last three months of the spring semester, the pandemic forced us to alter the way in which we live, celebrate, and learn.
This means there is a lot of change. But there are also some important life lessons from all of this. In school and in life, some of the most valuable lessons don’t come from books, but from experience. This year, in addition to literature, computer coding, and biology, we will learn a number of important life lessons, such as we can adapt to the changes that the coronavirus has forced on us.
Also, it is important that we not only start the school year but finish the school year. And to do this, all of us must perform at a higher level and work as a team. We are all individually responsible, but we are also dependent on each other to be successful in beating the virus. We are living through a historic time. We will get through this. This school year will be easier if each of us does our part. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when appropriate. Keep your distance socially. Be patient and kind to your schoolmates and teachers.