Our educational system is in the most extreme re-envisioning and retooling process in history. For many, school is no longer a building, but a dedicated URL, a screen, and a new toolbox of online instructional strategies. So, what has been learned since mid-March that has informed the first months of school?
Focus. Address the most urgent needs first. Successful schools and districts focus on the basics. They concentrate on infrastructure, attendance, and maintaining system coherence. Then they turn to curriculum, instruction, and assessment and the specific needs of students at risk of sustaining deep learning losses. Teachers focus in similar ways by reaching the child first, then bridging to the content. They master the tools of Zoom chat boxes to check for understanding, breakout rooms for small group work, Google Jamboards for students to chart and collaborate, and office hours for one-on-one conferencing.
Engagement. At the heart of engagement are relationships. Educators have always understood the challenges of school engagement but never with this sense of immediacy. Fortunately, in this two-dimensional world we inhabit, the fundamental understanding that school, in whatever way it manifests, is based in relationships has remained constant. Teachers and staff also need engagement opportunities that focus on wellness and managing the stress of our changing educational context. Teachers are still the most impactful factor in student learning and cannot effectively function without the expertise and support of their leaders. Engagement and connection reveal themselves in our new world to be both conceptual and literal, vital to students and adults alike. This includes your wellness!
Basics. What was always important is even more so now. The pandemic has exponentially increased the need for professional learning, especially for teachers to successfully shift to online learning. However, stay focused on the basics of teaching and learning. Remind educators of the importance of building relationships with students, structures, clarity of the outcome and demonstration of student learning. Making connections to what prior instructional focus areas that the district or school has been implementing is the right direction to go.