This article originally appeared in the November 2021 edition of Salon.

Blended learning was a new reality for teachers and students, and as Rose L. of Leo Hayes High School explained, to be successful you had to “be comfortable with the discomfort and recognize that the learning style required during COVID-19 was not going to last forever.” Expecting the unexpected has become her mantra. For Susan B. of Oromocto High School, it was about re-examining the resources available to her students. During one of the successful projects, students searched to research their family tree and then asked a family member about their life. Students were able to make connections between these stories and the themes of migration and settlement. “As you can imagine, there were many interesting stories and the students were eager to tell them.”

Jonathan W. of Leo Hayes High School said his school staff were already working on personalizing learning. Thanks to the pandemic, a final push has been made to give students more autonomy in their learning journey. Teachers established a “pick list,” and students worked independently and at their own pace to learn key concepts using the methods that best suited their strengths and needs. During face-to-face instruction, time was spent providing feedback, discussing challenges or interesting questions, and reorienting students’ goals and pathways for home learning days. Students found this approach motivating, liberating and positive overall. Jonathan adds that this is a key strategy that they will undoubtedly continue to use. “Since only half of the students were in the classroom every day, I had the opportunity to connect and work individually with smaller groups of students. I was able to work more closely with each student and meet the unique needs of each. I checked the work more frequently, which was of great benefit to the students and to me as well.

Rose L. of Leo Hayes High School agrees, “The pandemic has allowed me to bond with my students of a depth that was previously unknown to me. We both understood that we had to ‘go through this ordeal together’. My students were resilient and worked hard. They stumbled on occasion, but always stood up and were ready to share their ups and downs. I have never experienced such a collaborative teaching year in my career. “

By finding creative ways to give students a voice and choice, we have made room for conversation and dialogue, an approach essential to excellence in social science education in normal times, but of particular importance as learning communities were grappling with the pandemic.

Lise Martin-Keilty is a teacher from Fredericton, New Brunswick