May 2021 Coaching Tip of the Month
The new coronavirus relief package allocates $122 billion to K-12 public schools which includes $30 billion for summer school, afterschool, and other enrichment programs (abcnews.go.com). This will be tremendously helpful for schools as they struggle with planning for this next school year.
So many of our students and their parents have struggled this past year navigating in-person, remote, and/or hybrid learning environments. No matter the place of learning, it is clear that students have lost some ground in their learning. Is it the same for all students – no. Is it true for most students – yes, in some but not all ways. This pandemic hasn’t caused the inequities; this pandemic has magnified them and highlighted the disproportionate amount of not only school resources but the opportunities for summer learning. Students from low-income families have never had the opportunities for enrichment pursuits and/or camps that higher level income families have experienced. This has not changed. What has changed, however, is the readiness of each student as the new school year commences and what school will look like post pandemic.
“The past is behind, learn from it. The future is ahead, prepare for it. The present is here, live it” (Thomas S. Monson).
There have been many “silver linings” throughout this pandemic. From the simplest ones to the most complex ones, we need to ensure that we carry forward the lessons we learned from the pandemic and put learning in the proper perspective, emphasizing the whole individual and the socio-emotional wellbeing of all the school stakeholders. We must leave behind the notion of crisis teaching and make sound instructional decisions that move us toward intentional teaching, recognizing the lessons we learned and appreciating why those lessons are so important as our legacies.
We must not throw the baby out with the bath water.
“What we learn from history is that people don’t learn from history” (Warren Buffett). So, what have we learned?
Let’s start with the easy things we learned…I think we have learned that teachers and their students are resourceful and resilient; they rise to the challenge. I think we’ve learned that some of the things that were thrust upon us are actually very effective ways to engage our students and this “thinking out of the box” has increased the tools in our box. I think we’ve been reminded that “creativity is the mother of invention” (unknown attribution) and as the needs arose, teachers found ways of achieving the goals. And, yes, resources that we did not know existed were shared and teachers experimented using them; some were promising and some, not so much. We learned that we could maintain our physical distance while reinforcing our emotional connections, something we did not need to do in the past. We learned that assessments and traditional test scores took on a different meaning; we know that students need to learn and be assessed but do they need to learn the things we always thought were so important?
Here’s what I wonder… has the pandemic brought a new awareness of the fragility of the environment? Has it re-defined some of our values and created different goals for education? Has the spotlight on the inequities of our educational system been enough to ensure that equity, diversity, and privilege are issues that we address with more reliability, responsibility, and redressment? Have we learned that our students and our school stakeholders are individuals and need to be welcomed, accepted, and recognized with voice and choice? Have we remembered that we are partners in the learning process and that personalizing the learning is inspirational? Do we understand that our collective efficacy and agency shape the success of our school community and creates the culture of the school? Do we remember that we are nurturers with a growing passion for making a difference in our students’ lives?
There are so many things we have learned and will carry forward beyond the next school year. Perhaps we’ve learned that taking the pulse of the class regularly to check for understanding is incredibly valuable as we move ahead; blending the process of collaborating and networking with our colleagues is imperative for continued growth; designing in-person breakout rooms where students can log onto their computers in their classrooms and connect with students from different classrooms, schools, states, and countries is a sustainable practice; rethinking time on tasks and the actual tasks so they are redefined and re-purposed; readjusting priorities and re-assessing routines to reflect change; taking more time to personalize our interactions and taking “note and notice” by being present in the moment while planning for the future may be reinforced with our new normal. The point is not to let what we’ve learned from this pandemic cease to exist because we are back in a bricks and mortar place. Capitalize on the ingenuity conquered in the remote realm and replicate it in the physical environment so that we ensure a continuum of learning for all.