Throughout the COVID crisis, the discomfort of the daily uncertainty was often echoed in the familiar refrain of, “I just can’t wait to go back.” Zoom fatigue, social distancing, and the need to always be on watch, fed on each other in a spiraling yearning for going back to the familiar, to normal. Indeed, many schools did not hesitate to revert back to their “regularly scheduled programs” as soon as the guidelines permitted them, and were I to ask their leadership to reflect on what they learned, their answer would be something like, “We survived.”
For others, however, the changes necessitated by the pandemic forced a rethinking of almost every part of the educational process—the definition of learning, the school-home relationship, the vision of what constitutes an educational space and how it is used, the nature of what a school day looks like, the accessibility and role of the teacher, the school as an organ of the community, and even a deep gut-wrenching re-examination of the most visceral question of why we are engaged in Jewish education. That rethinking catalyzed a generation’s worth of educational transformation in the span of fifteen months—an extraordinary leap for any field. Some schools intuited that this was going to be a transformative moment and insisted that any changes they made to their programs be those that they would want to maintain afterward, others boldly experimented and kept the best ideas that they tried.
The breathtaking pace of change has generated extraordinary excitement and possibilities as well as a fair amount of anxiety—is the change too fast, without considering the positives of what was before? This issue of the journal looks at what we have learned from the crisis as we look forward. The core articles in the journal address administrative changes, educational adaptations, modifications to the school’s physical and technological infrastructures, re-evaluating the attention paid to the social-emotional well-being of students, and professional development and support for teachers. The range of ideas, including some that are brilliantly creative without being overly complex, is not only profoundly thought-provoking but truly inspiring. There is also the pushback, cautioning against radical change.
Precisely because things are moving so quickly, we added a new section to this journal, what we call the Learning Lab. These articles are shorter and reflect an ongoing process of thinking, reflecting, and experimenting. We invite you, the readers, to respond and share your own experimentation. We look forward to hearing from you as we venture into an unfamiliar era.