ADA, Michigan — Since the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading, its impact has crippled everything, including the education system.
Or, has it?
A Michigan teacher isn't buying it. And he has produced a powerful video that not only supports his claim, but also challenges educators everywhere to use this 'pause' we're in to create new ways for school to be more memorable and relevant for students when the pandemic passes.
"I've seen a lot of news headlines that talk about school is canceled," said Trevor Muir, who is a former English teacher at Byron Center High School, and current professor at Grand Valley State University. "School isn't canceled; just the location has changed."
When he's not teaching college classes, Muir, who lives in Ada, writes books and travels the world as a motivational speaker. His message is designed to challenge every educator to "become the teacher every student remembers," showing them how to unlock that potential by building relationships and crafting learning experiences that are engaging and transformative.
"We're all stuck right now, and we all need creativity to get out of this," added Muir, referring to how COVID-19 is impacting education. "You're seeing all this creativity coming out because you have to be creative."
Muir's creative side fully emerged recently through a powerful video he made entitled, "School IS NOT Canceled." Muir used spoken word throughout the 2:50 video clip, to craft a strong message, making sure teachers everywhere realize that their efforts during these challenging times are not being wasted, and that important learning is happening.
"Poetry has this power and it makes people lean in and pay attention," said Muir. "The real motivation behind the video was to inspire teachers everywhere."
Muir believes that educators should be taking this 'pause' we're in, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, channel the creativity being used to still teach to also re-shape how school should be when the pandemic ends.
"School needs to be more experiential and memorable," said Muir. "When I look back at my time in school, so much if it is forgettable.
"The stuff that does resonate still are the projects, and the things that have stories attached to them that we can continue to tell today. Stories are memorable, so we need to be more intentional about making school more memorable."
Muir strongly believes that educators need to be designing activities that force students to solve real-life problems rather than continue with school done with text books and tests.
"Students need to learn how to overcome life's obstacles," said Muir. "If they do that, they're going to remember that so much more than [a teacher] giving a 45 minute lecture, students take notes, and then put it down on a test afterward.
"During this time, students are still working, learning and growing even though there isn't a test holding them accountable."
Muir also doesn't believe schools should continue with standardized testing.
"Do we still need the ACT and SAT if we're seeing student growth without them," said Muir. "Or, maybe we need to minimize [the testing] a bit and put more emphasis and focus on the things that really matter, which is relationships and innovative, hands-on learning which is inspiring students to think differently."
Dr. Michael Shibler, who is the superintendent of Rockford Public Schools, says he watched Muir's video and agrees with the message behind it.
"He's spot on," said Shibler. "I couldn't agree more. When you go into classes and watch teachers teach, the kids get excited when their teachers are engaged.
"I've said this forever, I'd like to take an outstanding teacher in a pole barn, and put my kid in there, because I'm certain they'll get a great education."
At some point, COVID-19 will be over and school buildings will become busy again. Trevor Muir hopes that his fellow teachers everywhere can find a way to harness their inner power through his poetry.
"Wouldn't it be a shame if we just went back to business as usual, and we didn't take anything away from this time," said Muir. "We need to learn how to make it better."
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