For educators, COVID is all-encompassing. It lingers like an uninvited, obnoxious guest—the elephant in the room. Thus we are dedicating another column to what remains the predominant issue in education this year. Herewith a grab-bag of what has floated to the top of the COVID froth over the past few weeks, from using humour with students, to addressing science-literacy, to a guardedly optimistic new report from UNESCO—excerpt: COVID-19 has revealed vulnerabilities; it has also surfaced extraordinary human resourcefulness and potential.” 

  • Laugh and LearnMake ‘em laugh. Writing in the fall edition of Canadian Teacher, professional comedian Jeff Schouela describes his program Comedy for Kids, which demonstrates how comedy and academics can work hand-in-hand. He lists ways to incorporate humour in the classroom, such as playing clips of standup comedians; changing the wordings of idioms, e.g., “Actions speak louder than parents” and “Don’t put all your eggs in your mouth.” In his workshops with teachers he explains how jokes are crafted and delivered, and how to teach them to students. He notes, When I asked everyone which teachers they remembered from their days as students, the majority of them pointed out that the ones they remembered and excelled the most with were the ones who were the funniest.”
  • Why schools probably aren’t COVID hotspotsThe latest edition of Nature may calm your nerves somewhat, offering a summary of research data suggesting that school environments are not spreading the virus as was initially predicted. Data gathered worldwide are increasingly suggesting that schools, rather than leading the spread, tend to track their community infection rate. Author Dyani Lewis cautions, “However, research also shows that children can catch the virus and shed viral particles, and older children are more likely than very young kids to pass it on to others. Scientists say that the reasons for these trends are unclear, but they have policy implications for older children and teachers.”
  • Let’s Talk Science and COVID-19Scientists and educators are deeply concerned about the flood of anti-science misinformation about COVID and widespread mistrust of scientists. Guided by a diverse group of advisors, Let’s Talk Science offers events, projects and educational resources to help teachers and parents foster an interest in and respect for science and careers in science. In their words, “The COVID-19 crisis underscores the critical need for our work as science literacy and STEM skills underpin the global response.”
  • Teaching In The Year Of COVID: A ReflectionWriting from an American perspective, Sarah Claborn offers a first-person reflection on the challenges and stresses she has endured as a teacher since the onset of the pandemic. She notes that “teachers are continually asked to do the impossible and make it look seamless…. Our brains are tired and we are scared of what this year of teaching looks like. All we’d like is some compassion and understanding that this isn’t about us, we just want what is best for everyone.”
  • Education in a post-COVID world: Nine ideas for public action. [International Commission on the Futures of Education]Noting that the worldwide education of a staggering 1.5 billion students has been negatively impacted by COVID, this new UNESCO report offers some positive ideas for post-COVID educational change. A short and concise executive summary lists nine suggestions for change, including fostering a new commitment to “strengthen education as a common good,” redefining the “right to education” to include the right to connectivity, “to access knowledge and information,” pushing for scientific literacy and protecting education funding, among others.
  • Can new forms of parent engagement be an education game changer post-COVID-19?Writing for’s Centre for Universal Education (CUE), Rebecca Winthrop notes that COVID brought parents from the background into the spotlight, to the point where suddenly the need to engage parents in their children’s education has become a top priority. She sees this as a potential rigger for systemic change. “We…are delving deeply into the topic of parent and family engagement in education.” She describes the CUE project, noting the broad and diverse approaches to parent-engagement worldwide, “that could hold great potential for building stronger learning ecosystems for young people. We are interested both in strategies that build the strong relationships needed to help students advance along traditional academic measures but also the potential of this moment to build family and community demand for an educational approach that puts student agency and the range of accompanying 21st century skills young people need to thrive at the center of systems.”

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