By: Fran Bulloff, VTI President
Although I am writing this blog in late June and much of the summer still lies ahead, a great deal of attention is being given right now to returning students to schools of all levels in the Fall. While some talk about reopening “next Fall” or “next year” like it is far off in the future, the reality is really only weeks away and teachers still are not sure what will be expected of them. A University of Michigan poll last week of parents in Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana showed that 67% would likely send their children back to school in Fall. I am wondering whether that statistic reflects great confidence that individual school systems will find ways to educate their children without endangering them to the coronavirus, or simply virus fatigue and parents desperate to end homeschooling.
I spoke with a recent high school graduate the other day who will be attending a large out of state public university in eight weeks. She was enthusiastic about receiving a full academic scholarship, yet also eagerly hoping to play soccer on the Women’s Varsity Team when she arrives. She was offered a single room in the dormitory, but is not sure how the dining and classroom arrangements will work yet. US college campuses are preparing for 20% fewer students in the Fall and four out of ten rising Freshmen say they will not start college immediately. These young adults are struggling to find meaningful work or gap year activities as alternatives. Living and learning amidst students their age is essential to their personal development.
Our four-year-old granddaughter is still waiting for the green light to return to her preschool/extended care at the end of August, since it abruptly ended in March. In contrast, our young grandsons living in Europe have been back to school and day care since early May and older students returned in June. There is no perfect formula yet for how to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus while providing quality educational experiences. Everyone seems to agree that going back to traditional methods with crowded classrooms and play areas won’t work even for the lowest risk young children, yet our little ones learn best by playing together and gaining social skills is essential to their development.
Adults need educational growth and personal development as well. The Validation Training Institute has been busy developing creative instructional methods within the confines of quarantines and social distancing. How do we offer our proven effective curricula without or with minimal in person training? Here are some of the answers:
We are rolling out our first How to Teach Validation webinar in August. This eight-hour training program for current English speaking Validation Teachers will be broken down into two, four-hour sessions with break out zoom rooms for small groups. The webinar will provide continuing education credits for our teachers.
With support of NextFifty Initiative, we are offering our second Family Caregiver Course to 25 family caregivers in Denver starting this September. We have adjusted the course so that we can teach the traditional two-day, in-person component of the course in a way that supports health guidelines in the state of Colorado. This includes a completely virtual option and the possibility of a hybrid model which could include some people learning in-person while others join via a live stream.
We are also offering our first Internet Supported Worker Course in Spanish in September. Instruction will be entirely in Spanish and the format will be revised from two in-person sessions to one.
I am also elated to hear about private initiatives by activity directors and Validation practitioners such as Group Bingo on individual tv screens in residents‘ rooms, carts delivering books and craft materials to rooms, zoom Validation groups including people living with their families, and hugging through plastic lined doorway armhole openings at care communities. It is amazing what creativity and love can accomplish! Don’t stop learning and personally developing because of the virus.