What a crazy year the 2019-2020 school year has turned out to be. Little did we know back in August that this year would turn into a year of teaching from home with schools closed all over the nation and world. If someone had told me that in January, I would have probably laughed at the crazy idea of it and went on with my day. Yet, here we are.
When this pandemic first started, I felt an intense level of guilt as I thought about my students, teachers, and other staff members. I felt like no matter how much effort I was giving, I just wasn’t giving or doing enough. The students needed more contact from me, the teachers needed more support from me, the community needed more of me. It was a hard beginning.
However, as educators, we ROCK at rising to the occasion, and that is what I have watched teachers all over the world do. We have done our part in giving the best education we could give given our circumstances. We worked endlessly to create digital lessons, put together packets, and find ways to gather grades for this year. We pulled together when everything around us felt like it was falling apart, and we gave our students what they needed to be as successful as possible this year.
As the year comes to a close, we are all left with the feeling of “What now?” When this all began, we had no idea it would lead to the rest of the physical school year being dismissed and our perfectly placed pacing guides being completely disrupted.
If your school is anything like mine, then Distance Learning did not look like the picture perfect learning experience. The standards to be covered according to the pacing guides abruptly stopped when school ended for us on March 17. In a Title I district without the means to provide devices and internet hot spots, our students were expected to “learn” via paper packets, and we all know that is not feasible. While Zoom conferences, Google Meet-Ups, fun digital tasks, and innovative technology tools are fun and a phenomenal tool to use during Distance Learning, they all require devices, internet, and other resources that our students do not have available.
Where do we go from here?
Firstly, we cut ourselves a break from stressing the way this year turned out. We acknowledge that it’s a year unlike any other we have experienced so far in our careers, and we move forward knowing we did the best we could with such short notice.
Once we have realized the compassion we should have for ourselves during this time, we can then look at next year differently. This year caught us off-guard. We had to figure Distance Learning and teaching virtually very quick, so our lack of expertise and knowledge was understandable. However, if we don’t prepare for another situation like that in the future, then it is on us. As educators, we adapt to new standards, expectations, and, in this case, a whole new way of teaching. Moving forward, we have to better ourselves and be prepared for times like this in the future.
Here are some specific steps for preparing for next year:
- Complete a Curriculum Analysis to see what standards were taught fully and mastered by students versus those that were not. This can be completed by looking at the pacing guide and assessment data from throughout the year.
- Using the Curriculum Analysis, vertically plan for next year. Communicate any standards that were fully, partially, and minimally mastered to the teachers of the next grade level. Reach out to the grade level below to ask for this same information.
- Update your pacing guide to reflect any standards from the grade below that were not fully taught or mastered. Embed these standards wherever is possible in your pacing guide. By doing this, you are being proactive in preventing potential learning gaps caused by standards not being covered or mastered.
- Begin designing mini-lessons and lesson plans with the standards from the previous embedded in them. Think of ways you can incorporate these standards without jeopardizing the coverage of the current grade level standards. While these standards being added will affect the coverage of the current grade level standards, planning ahead and coming up with ideas early on will eliminate some of that stress later.
- Brainstorm some ways you can be better prepared for something like this next year. How can you design lessons that could be used in class, in a blended learning environment, or in a virtual setting? What can you do now to be better equipped to handle something like this happening again next year?
Lastly, as you reflect on this year and plan for next year, remember to have compassion.
Compassion Over Compliance
1. Compassion for yourself – The teacher guilt is so real right now as we all feel like we are not doing enough. You are doing the best you can – have some compassion for you and all that you’re doing.
2. Compassion for your students – The students are not adapted to online or distance learning yet, and we don’t know what their homes look like and if they all have the support needed. Have compassion for them. Some have the support at home to complete tasks, but some don’t. Meet them where they are.
3. Compassion for teachers and support staff – We are all new to this, and we won’t always make the perfect decisions. It’s imperative that we have patience and compassion for one another. There are some teachers who may need more assistance or who may not fully understand the best way to complete Distance Learning. Help them and be the guide!
4. Compassion for our administration and school leaders – This is new, and there are so many HUGE decisions having to be made at the admin level. There is absolutely no way to make everyone happy, but the priority is almost always the students and their safety. Be compassionate as our school leaders work to make very big decisions that have major impacts on all of us and our students. Trust their intentions!
We are all in this together! Let’s continue to support one another and show love. I appreciate all the positivity I’ve seen in education here lately and hope you are all doing well!