This quote says it ALL! The Pandemic opened our eyes to what wasn’t working in Education. It also put us to the test of showing what we are capable of as educators when allowed to “think outside the box” and do whatever is necessary to educate kids!
Sure, nobody wanted to go through the Pandemic. Nobody wanted to close schools and be educated fully from behind a screen. Nobody wanted to worry about getting sick while doing the job they loved-teaching! Yet, during the 2020-2021 school year, educators did!
It wasn’t easy to figure it out when those school doors started closing back in March 2020. There wasn’t necessarily the materials or technology to even do the job if you could figure it out. So I think we can admit as educators that the Spring semester wasn’t our finest hour. But once educators knew that was the way school was going to happen come Fall 2020, the fantastic teaching and learning that began to happen overnight was second to none compared to past innovative and professional development teaching and learning teachers had experienced.
Before the Pandemic, when new textbook adoptions, state standards, and curriculum frameworks were upon educators, they didn’t happen overnight. Contemporary learning theories and best practices came via many different paths and introductions. Even then, despite Professional Development, committees, and various mentoring new learnings did not happen overnight. Often not at all. The system of professional growth and improvement of curriculum and instruction was ongoing. Unfortunately, it worked better in some places vs. others. Often due to District goals and priorities or Leadership styles, or beliefs about how to provide staff development schools and staff needs as priority or just plain too many goals and one-shot staff development opportunities without follow up and mentoring.
In my opinion, the Pandemic had some positives. One is that people opened their eyes to the good things happening in schools. Realize the importance of educators and understand how hard they work. Also, the better understanding that educators keep up with the current needs of their career and population without the time or resources of other professionals. Think about it-They are paid to be at work for basically the same amount of time that the kids are in school, give or take an extra ½ hour or so for morning prep or conferences. Therefore, prep and staying up to date with technology and best practices requires having a sub and being out of the classroom. A few staff development days or some district Bank Time provides an extra slot of time per week for teachers to meet, collaborate, analyze data, attend meetings, learn, and prep. Again, Banking Time still requires that teachers prep for the work during the week, so in reality, it doesn’t fully provide the professional needs.
During the Pandemic, teachers had to learn a wealth of new skills quickly; therefore, students left to do more independent learning. This was not the fault of educators but instead the system.
Parents were required to do a lot of teaching and backup work at home. This was not the fault of educators, nor was it the fault of parents. Again, the responsibility of the system.
In the end, everyone gained a lot of new skills and learned a lot about educating kids. Parent-Teacher partnerships became more profound and more powerful than ever before. The curriculum that needed to be dumped into the “circular file” (trashcan) was due to limited time and a better understanding of what worked and what was essential to student success. Technology skills developed faster than ever before for all; teachers, students, and parents. Most importantly, the understanding of “how kids learn” and brain research became a reality. Social-Emotional Learning was no longer considered fluff but rather understood and made a priority!
Yes, none of this was easy. It still isn’t easy, but hopefully, instead of going back to things as they were before the Pandemic in schools, ALL educators, parents, community members, and students will take time to reflect upon the positives that came from it. Then using what worked during the Pandemic with what worked before the Pandemic and thinking about what kids TRULY need to be successful in life, spend time developing a New and Improved school system. There is not the time and energy for negativity. Rather Hand-in-Hand, together, let us put energy into collaborating, communicating, creating, and thinking critically about how best to return to school. Time for powerful relationship-building, culturally responsive, trauma-informed environments allow kids to build strategies for “how to learn and access their resources” while developing Social-Emotional and Character through an embedded culture.