Surviving World War C

The World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001 have, among other things, significantly impacted security and travel. Nearly two decades later, World War C (Covid-19) has changed the way we must now interact, work, play, and educate our children.

As a crisis counselor, traumatologist, educator, and social justice advocate, I see families being challenged like never before. They are experiencing increased isolation, stress, and financial devastation. With the increased stress on us all, it’s more important than ever to be intentional about managing our behavior. Whether personally, within our family, workspace, in our schools, or in public.

Covid-19 is to some extent like Kryptonite, which diminished Superman’s powers and rendered him helpless. You see, Kal-El wasn’t disguised when he was wearing his Superman outfit. Clark Kent was the true disguise, but his behavior was just like Superman. That’s because Kal-El was always Superman, with or without his cape.

Our inability to manage our behavior, reactions, and chronic stressors will become like Kryptonite if we don’t discover, uncover, and unleash our Behavioral SuperPowers™. It’s time for us to embrace the change and new opportunities that await us, just like we did post 9-11. Our society needs behaviorally smart and capable individuals willing to exercise their SuperPowers, especially in the area of communication. Now is not the time for coddling, it’s time for sustainable action.

A New Season for Education

Traditional school, as we know it, has ended. Our new WHE (Work-Home-Education) environment must be intentionally embraced. Longing for the old days is fruitless.

As a former superintendent and principal, I serve as Vice President of a social justice bilingual literacy organization. I speak with superintendents, board members, business leaders, policymakers, and community advocates daily. Sadly, there is mass confusion and discomfort about “how” to implement education for the coming school year, and beyond. A recent survey revealed 69% of parents don’t want their children in a traditional school this coming school year. Those who don their capes and use their SuperPowers™ are the ones who will figure it out, sooner, rather than later.

I expect that it will take up to 3-5 years before we have new educational systems in place. Many school districts will lose millions of dollars and are seeing an onslaught of parents seeking homeschooling or online charter schools. Other parents expect public schools to create a hybrid educational option and do whatever it takes to keep their children safe. Children can’t learn if they feel unsafe, and teachers can’t educate if they don’t feel supported.

We are in danger of losing an entire generation of Covid Kids, not due to the pandemic, but due to our inability to pivot during the trauma of the moment. The overall economic impact may be as big as the stimulus package over the next few years. But we won’t see the most significant effects on our society and kids for at least 10 years, especially in the area of stress.

What’s on the Horizon?

Schools that don’t proactively plan for this reality will find themselves losing students to the competition, which won’t only be charter, online, homeschool, or private school networks. It will include the forward-thinking public school or district next door. This will occur because they’ve embraced the new normal and are providing a growing “service” to their constituents.

Schools and colleges will need to embrace a service model vs. just a teaching model if they want to survive and thrive. Failure to do so will cause schools to close and teachers to be laid off. Districts could find themselves educationally bankrupt and out of business — just like Souplantation and JC Penney — because the buffet style and retail delivery model of education is now obsolete.

There will be K-12 schools and colleges that were already on the brink of closing, due to low enrollment, that will shut their doors because a high percentage of parents will be wary of their children coming back to school too soon, or at all. Parents will seek and demand to have a blended or virtual school option for their children. This will result from fear and a growing comfort for an online/blended learning. Educators are also wary of how they’ll transition to a virtual/blended form of education, especially those that are not tech savvy and are at the end of their careers. The other issue will be childcare…for everyone.

This new accommodation will equate to millions of children, families, and new customers who will need to be acclimated in this emergent education economy. Parents will expect R.O.E.I. (Return on Educational Investment) to be factored into their children’s learning and development. Paradoxically, because of this pandemic and its impact on education, we now have an opportunity to make education more efficient, purposeful, and relevant. However, many critical multi-sensory learning modalities may suffer, (music, P.E., art, electives, team sports, etc.). These programs have kept many kids, especially lower income, black, brown, and underserved students, engaged in education.

Sustainable Educational Action

Staggered education, virtual, blended, and distance learning will become embedded into public and private school offerings. The Assistant Superintendent of Virtual Learning and his/her department will be the new and explosive industry in K-12 Education. Colleges are already ahead of this trend, but you’ll see a shift in how they proactively deliver education as well. Acceptance letters will come from the university and the College of Distance Learning. Just like taking your shoes off at a TSA security checkpoint, you’ll also need to embrace and accept this new educational “normal.”

Colleges will find many of their buildings vacant next school year and beyond. Students will seek to save money, stay safe from the next outbreak or school shooting and be virtually educated. Parents will also expect a reduction in tuition costs. Distance Learning Professors will be in demand. Virtual education will no longer have the stigma of a lesser college experience or a de-valued degree.

I’m excited for our new dawn. Despite our current challenges, I’m optimistic for those who will use their Behavioral SuperPowers™ to capitalize on the potential opportunities. Join me and other Behavioral SuperPowers™ Catalysts for a webinar panel discussion entitled, Behavioral Family Affair. Together we will empower our families, schools, and communities to thrive, rather than merely survive. Now, more than ever, humanity needs behaviorally smart and capable individuals willing to exercise their SuperPowers, especially in the area of communication.

Dr. Gregory A. Spencer volunteers as a Senior Policy Advisor and Behavioral SuperPowers™ Catalyst with DreamSmartAcademy.com. He also serves as Vice President with Footsteps2Brilliance.com, a social justice bilingual and family engagement literacy organization. Dr. Spencer has served as an elected city commissioner, school board president, superintendent, school principal, teacher, and as a Legislative Aide in the California State Assembly. He is an ordained minister who earned his Ph.D. in Traumatology and Crisis Counseling from Monarch Theological Seminary, with courses from MIT. As a sought after thought leader, Dr. Spencer is a best-selling author and co-author of An American Crisis: Veteran’s Unemployment, Invest in Your Debt, 936 Pennies, How to Close the Credibility Gap, and Discover Your Inner Strength with NY Times best-selling authors Dr. Stephen R. Covey & Dr. Ken Blanchard. His work has been recognized by The White House, the U.S. Senate, and the CA State Legislature.

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