Elizabeth Moje talks about impact of Michigan school closure on WDET Detroit Today

April 03, 2020

In anticipation of Governor Whitmer’s announcement regarding the closing of Michigan schools for the remainder of the year, Elizabeth Moje was interviewed by Stephen Henderson on WDET’s Detroit Today radio program.

Henderson asked questions about the impact that the school closure has on students, families, and teachers and then took questions and comments from listeners. While Moje acknowledges that we are facing a big loss due to the instructional time students are missing, she is also optimistic that we can work through this challenge together. She pointed to the educational losses in the midst of WWII to demonstrate that our youth are resilient and we will adapt to move past this obstacle. 

Moje discussed the efforts of teachers and districts to quickly pivot from face-to-face instruction to online learning: “Educators are coming to learn how to meet the needs of children.” Educators are quickly learning about the different affordances of online education, but many teachers and students also feeling losses around missing opportunities to be together in the classroom. 

Additionally, she points out that “what this crisis is revealing is something that has always been true. There are vast disparities in students’ resources and there is incredible inequity in education.” This is true because of varying access to technologies, differing levels of struggle within families during the crisis, and the diverse educational needs of students.  

Moje said that when schools reopen “all educators will need to hone our professional skills for differentiating opportunities to learn because students are going to have had very different experiences in their time away from school.”  While this has always been a skill that good educators use, it will be more pressing due to the current circumstances. 
The burden to offer excellent instruction reaches beyond the K-12 classroom. The faculty at the University of Michigan, for example, are well-equipped with the tools to support virtual classrooms but Moje points to the challenges of taking syllabi that were designed for face-to-face instruction to an online format. 

While Moje describes the many efforts of instructors, she also notes that some experiences such as clinical practice placements and internships cannot be replaced by virtual interaction. Despite this loss, the SOE is still trying to move forward with providing similar experiences so that new teachers will be able to begin their teaching careers as anticipated.

Moje’s message to all parents was “Children are resilient. They will catch up.” She shared with Henderson her confidence that committed educators working together will help the country bounce back. 
 

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Dean, School of Education; George Herbert Mead Collegiate Professor of Education; Arthur F Thurnau Professor; Faculty Associate, Research Center for Group Dynamics, Institute for Social Research