During my teaching and directing career, I attended many conferences and trainings which have dealt with different ways of seeing education, new teaching methods, incorporation of new technologies and other issues typical of the times and their impact on the teaching task.
From a few years ago, I’ve heard many experts began to explain the reasons why the school, as we know the educational institution, is destined to disappear. I never fully accepted those ideas. I thought maybe it was because of my own personal story, or because I am of the generation that is about to retire and it is difficult for me to imagine a world without schools.
Until this unimagined time started just a few weeks ago. This time when we were required to close schools. This time when the fight against a pandemic forces us to be at home transforming, not only our way of living, but also our way of understanding family, community, the world.
On Monday, the 16th of March, a motivated management team, at each school site, met to analyze the situation. Many of them had already worked during the weekend, preparing absolutely new paths. And with this leadership in our and other institutions thousands of teachers deconstructed themselves with impressive speed, experimented, took classes online, taught and supported each other to be able to rise to this situation; this historic moment, in which we “stayed at home”.
It does not mean that we surrender to the disease, but that we look for a way to stay alive, working efficiently.
All of this change, as in all new situations, can bring out the best in people, and so is the work of all staff in all schools.
The first step was to talk to the students, but immediately we were worried whether we could listen. Is it possible to teach only by speaking or writing? No. But we already knew this. What we did not know was that technology gave us new tools to try to fill the gap.
Nor could we have explained to the experts of institutional apocalypse that the encounter between people is irreplaceable, that girls, boys and young people learn from the exchange between them, from the hug, from the joke, from the games.
A few years ago a group of people from a Lutheran congregation in the city of Chicago in the United States visited one of our schools and after a few days of participating in school life, they left us as a gift two observations that I remember and repeat at every opportunity. The first was that they were amazed that at school students, teachers and managers greeted each other with a kiss every day; and the other, I quote verbatim: “How much do you accomplish with so few material resources?”
Perhaps the secret of school survival has to do with meeting, affection, conflict and learning to face and resolve them, but that is not all. It is also based on creative, intelligent, hard-working and affective teachers. In people, girls, boys, youth, teachers and all the staff, who gather around the school building to build “the School” together, with a capital letter.
Today we are physically separated, but working together. We don’t know when the hugs and kisses will return, but we are preparing the reunion with professionalism and love.
My thanks to all members of the educational community for understanding, and making it understood that the school does not disappear, but is preparing to become more enriched, stronger, and with new tools to transform and improve the community and world in which we live.
Prof. Ing. Miguel Ángel Fernández
Obra Educativa Sinodal (IEA-IEES) de la Iglesia Evangélica Luterana Unida