by Dr. Toby A. Travis, TrustED®
Through conversations with many parents, teachers, and school administrators during the recent pandemic, I became aware of two faulty assumptions exacerbating the crisis. The first was a false belief that a pre-pandemic definition of “normalcy” could be achieved on our campuses during the pandemic or would return after the pandemic subsided.
School leaders attempted to provide students, to the greatest extent possible, with a “normal” experience during the pandemic. But what our faculty and staff were being challenged to do to toggle their students between campus-based and home-based instruction was a new and different expectation than they have ever had. Thus, in many ways, it was like every teacher experienced their first year of teaching all over again, with an entirely new set of rules, expectations, tools, and adjustments to their lesson planning.
That meant that whatever we had established pre-pandemic as expected learning outcomes for any given grade level or subject area would not be met. Pause and let that sink in.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, whatever we had established in the past as expected, learning outcomes for any given grade level or subject area would most likely only be partially met or realized. And if, as administrators, teachers, or parents, we set the expectation that we measure success or our pursuit of learning outcomes during the pandemic or post-pandemic by benchmarks established during pre-pandemic years, we do not understand our current and very extraordinary situation fully.
We can no longer experience a “normal” year as defined by pre-pandemic norms. And that is ok.
Every student, teacher, and administrator faces this same reality worldwide. So, we need to relax. The entire world is in this exact situation.
Remember and remain focused on the truth when we keep our students engaged in learning. They will grow. They will learn. But our metrics for assessing their learning and growth post-pandemic will look different.
If teachers attempt to create the exact learning pace they had in previous years, they will burn out themselves and their students in weeks. So that strategy will not work. And as parents and administrators, we need teachers to know that we understand and it is okay.
Today we have an opportunity to focus far more on measuring success and excellence in developing social and emotional skills. Those life competencies will serve our students for a lifetime.
Consider this. Numerous studies have shown that over 90% of the content delivered to high school students will not be remembered within four years of graduation. Content is essential, but it is not the chief and highest learning that needs to occur.
Today, perhaps more than ever, we can focus intentionally on developing life skills such as patience, understanding, empathy, and placing others ahead of ourselves. We can shine post-pandemic by supporting students and each other in developing these skill sets.
Mom… Dad… do not worry that your 3rd grader may not be covering all of the same material your older child covered during their 3rd-grade experience pre-pandemic. It simply is not possible. And that’s ok.
What is far more critical is what they learn from watching us as parents, teachers, and administrators in how we manage to go through a crisis. That lesson will stay with them forever. A second false belief is that our plans are going to work. I firmly believe in the old phrase, “plan your work and then work your plan.” And I am very proud of our team and the health and safety and instructional plans that were developed to guide our work through the pandemic. But I also knew that we could not predetermine or pre-calculate every issue or nuance to what and how it would look like to operate a hybrid program of a school amid a pandemic. They didn’t offer that topic in Superintendent or Principal 101 when I was in university. We school leaders were all learning how to do this and were bound to make mistakes. Some parts of our plan did not work, or we needed to continually adjust and modify it to meet the needs of students, parents, faculty, and staff. And, again, that was and is ok.
We had and continue to have an opportunity to grow as a school community through these extraordinary times. We have an opportunity to intentionally encourage one another through the challenges and shifting sand that we are all standing on now.
One of the tenants of my philosophy of education is that we learn best through failure. It is ok when our plan fails. What an incredible learning experience the pandemic brought us to improve our operations. Set aside any previous measurement of what “normal” should be post-pandemic. And prepare for when plans don’t go exactly the way we may have imagined. Celebrate the social, emotional, and spiritual growth we can all experience as we go through these times together. And savor the opportunity to focus on the chief end of learning, students maturing into leaders who can be trusted to care for the world with an unknown and unpredictable future. Authored by Toby A. Travis, Ed,D,
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