SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Heading back to school for the 2020-21 academic year will look much different from what educators, parents and pupils are typically used to every August.
Many students who were first introduced to a virtual learning format as the pandemic unfolded last spring can expect a similar online educational experience in the fall as COVID-19 infections continue rising.
It’s why Savannah-born Keith L. Brown, who’s made a name for himself as a motivational speaker, educational consultant and college and career readiness coach, hopes to help navigate teachers, children and parents through this new normal.
“These are unprecedented times,” the Savannah State and Georgia Southern alum, also known as “Mr. I’m Possible,” told WSAV.com NOW.
“Across the country, we’ve already begun our program called Virtual, an acronym [that stands for] Versatile Instruction Relevant Teachers Uniquely Administered Lessons,” shared Brown, whose wife Wakea is an elementary school principal.
“What we are now doing is going into school districts and supplemental education agencies across the country and across the world giving excellent tips on how to engage our young people even more effectively on a virtual platform,” he said.
Brown says he salutes Mayor Van Johnson on his leadership throughout the pandemic and applauds other elected officials who have put safety first.
“I believe as we go back to school that the virtual platform is the best platform at this time,” Brown said. “The numbers are spiking; nearly 150,000 deaths in America since March as a result of COVID-19.”
He notes that while human connection is important, human life is even more crucial.
“I don’t want a human life to be sacrificed by human connection or by the economy,” Brown said.
Advice for teachers
Brown, who has served as an education partner with the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System over the past two decades, says other than medical and health care professionals, educators likely have the most difficult job ahead of them.
He adds that teachers have a multitude of educational opportunities awaiting them on virtual platforms.
Brown encourages them to be animated to keep kids engaged — even possibly going as far as to dress up as notable figures as part of their lessons.
“If I’m talking about, ‘these woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep,’ I may come in dressed like Robert Frost, who knows, you know, or I may come in dressed like Langston Hughes or someone else who I love in literature,” Brown shared.
He also encourages interactive lessons to keep students motivated.
“We must be willing to have those innovative teaching strategies go above and beyond to make certain that our children and youth are engaged, because if not, then they’re going to be doing TikTok videos during school time and we definitely don’t want that,” he said, adding that he finds nothing wrong with the popular social media platform.
In fact, he says instructors can even use it to their advantage.
“We’re even showing educators how to utilize platforms such as TikTok and other platforms with the musical intelligence to merge that into the curriculum,” Brown said.
Advice for parents
For moms, dads and guardians, Brown imparts three words of advice during this period: release, relax and restore.
I’m asking parents to practice self care, because I know some parents were thrust into a position they’re not used to, where they had to be educators,” Brown said.
“I know that parents now have a greater appreciation of our nation’s teachers because of COVID-19, and you see a lot of times what the teachers have had to go through,” he added.
He advises that parents maintain communication with their child’s teachers for guidance.
“Definitely stay in touch with the schools and to get those tips,” Brown said.
He also suggests ensuring the child has a safe environment at home that’s conducive to virtual learning.
“That means we don’t want them in their bedrooms with the door closed and the door locked,” Brown said. “So, we want them maybe at the living room or dining room or kitchen table where we can learn together as a family, because I think it’s so very important that we bring those traditional family values back that we lost as a result of social media and technology.”
Advice for students
As virtual learners prepare for the coming school year, Brown offers four positive affirmations.
“You start with, ‘I love myself; I believe in myself; I’m proud of myself; and I’m a genius,’” he shared.
“When you love yourself, you’re going to do what’s best for yourself, and right now, what’s best for you is to get that education and to stay focused so that you can make change in America; you want to make change and not be shortchanged,” he said.
He asks students to utilize the same energy they put into making TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram Live videos into earning their education virtually.
“We believe in you to get that extra help with tutorials if you need, don’t feel ashamed to do that,” he said.
“You can be proud of yourselves by doing the work and showing COVID-19 that it cannot stop you from being great,” he added.