UW–Madison’s John Diamond was a guest on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time” program on July 21 to talk about the debate raging in Wisconsin and across the nation about whether schools should re-open this fall — or continue with virtual learning.
Host Rob Ferrett sets up the segment noting that as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, this is a divisive issue. Teachers’ unions throughout the state argue that it’s still too dangerous to resume in-person teaching. Others argue that virtual learning is not nearly as effective as in-person, so students need to return to the classroom.
Diamond holds the Kellner Family Distinguished Chair in Urban Education with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis. He begins by telling WPR that it’s important to try and take politics out of the decision-making process as much as possible.
“I think we’ve had a national and local discourse that in some ways has been impacted by political decisions rather than health decisions,” he says. “First and foremost, the health and safety of the students — and teachers and administrators and custodial workers and everyone involved with education, including families and parents — is really important to keep in mind.”
When schools were forced to transition to online learning back in March, this move came on very unexpectedly and quickly. Diamond was asked what lessons may have been learned from that experience.
Diamond noted that there are three important things to keep in mind: the resources needed; the relationships that are necessary; and to utilize reflective practice.
When talking about resources, Diamond notes it’s important to understand that these are unequally distributed across communities and schools.
“Some communities can adapt more quickly because they have the infrastructure and the set of resources that allowed them to do that,” he says. “Other districts struggled in making those rapid changes. It’s important to keep in mind that resources need to be front and center.”
When talking about relationships, Diamond asks: “What are the relationships like in your community between teachers and administrators? Between the district and the school? And between the school and community, and between teachers and parents?” Having good, trusting relationships is important.
Diamond also notes the value of reflective practice: “How can we be very cognizant of what we learned in the spring, and what can we take from that to improve what happens this fall.”
To learn much more about this important, nuanced topic, listen to an archive of the entire interview between Diamond and Ferrett via this WPR web page.