Learning Pods - One Room Schoolhouses for the Pandemic
My grandmother began teaching in a one room schoolhouse. She was hired by the local township and taught the families within walking distance to the school. By the time she retired, the system had evolved to the world we know today with state run programs, standardized curriculum, pensions. In that system she was a first- grade teacher. Grandma said it had always been her job to teach everyone to read.
I’ve thought about her and that one room schoolhouse as parents try to find learning solutions as the pandemic drags on. What we are seeing around the country are parents gathering a small group of neighborhood kids and hiring a local tutor to run a classroom. Nicknamed a “learning pod” or “pandemic pod” they are based on the hope that this will keep learning active and the kids safe.
The pluses are that it frees up the parents to get some work done and it provides structured learning for the students. They maintain the benefits of small group learning and highly personalized teaching. The cons are that the students still have some vulnerability to the virus if the students are meeting in person. Every student is an entry point of exposure from their family and their contacts. In the long run, we worry about the narrowness of the small group versus the diversity of a large classroom.
The groups are taking off like wildfire. My last search on Facebook hit 42,000 groups, and that is only a partial view. If the pandemic had happened when my boys were in elementary school, there is no doubt this would have been an appealing option to explore with my beloved “mom’s group”. Given the “tbd” of today’s classroom parents are desperate for solutions. There are some real points to consider in the bigger picture.
Learning pods bring up a world of have and have nots. The parents who can afford to chip in to hire a private teacher are fortunate. The costs are estimated between $30 and $100 per hour, depending on the region and level of expertise on hire. In a regular world, many parents would struggle to do this. In a world with 10.2% unemployment, furloughs and continuing economic uncertainty, this may be luxury completely out of consideration. We are setting up an even more divided society with some students being taught in highly personalized schoolhouses, some in the online public classroom.
Some learning pods are addressing this by having the sixth student be a “scholarship” student, often a student who will add greater diversity to the group. It is a positive step if the group is truly welcoming.
Learning pods do lean back to an earlier time, those small school- houses with one teacher. Now with Zoom and laptops instead of chalk, but many of same aspects. If Grandma were alive, I think she’d be signing up to teach. There are still children who need to learn to read.