Educators are all over the spectrum when it comes to how they feel about the changes facing schools in light of the current pandemic with its indefinite timeline.
Some are excited about the shift to a blended learning model, considering it long overdue.
Others acknowledge that it is good, but are intimidated by the prospect of having to relearn and recreate everything.
And still, there is a group who are in complete denial that things will change, determined to dig their feet in and hold on to the old way no matter what (they are likely checking their retirement options or spending their spare minutes searching Indeed for career-change opportunities).
Administrators do not have the luxury resisting these changes. Teachers, students, and parents need to feel confident that the decisions being made are well-thought-out and appropriately planned to meet their needs. They will all need to be trained and equipped to tread this uncharted path successfully with the assurance of a strong support and foundation to keep them going when they are unsure.
We recommend the following tips for making this transition happen.
Guidance from the CDC shows that there really cannot be a return to schools as we have known them for the last 100+ years. Some schools are being blindly optimistic and planning to start up as normal in the fall, but most districts are developing a plan B (blended) and a plan C (remote). More progressive districts have decided to embrace what may be inevitable and commit to making the shift to some form of a blended structure.
The positive here is that there has been a shift in educational philosophy for more than 20 years now. Research has consistently shown that student learning is more effective when students are discovering information with teachers facilitating learning rather than spoon-feeding it. It has just been hard to implement this change systematically. The very unfortunate situations we have found ourselves in has forced our hand, so let’s just embrace it!
As schools are planning for the fall, many are looking at the possibility of a blended learning model that is structured with 50% of the student body at school on Monday/Wednesday and the other 50% attending on Tuesday/Thursday. Students spend the days they are not at school doing remote learning. And Fridays are reserved for teachers to plan/grade/record
Blended learning is not just providing a digital curriculum. It is not just reteaching in person what was learned online. And it is also not just having students do on a device what they would have/could have done on paper.
Blended learning involves shifting content and instruction to the control of the student in some way. It requires an element of student control (time, place, path and/or pace). Teachers provide instruction through a digit format, usually a recorded lesson, that students can work through, rewind, or rewatch as needed. Students show mastery through shorter assessments (think exit ticket). The teacher is free to help students where each student needs it most and to tutor or individualize instruction as needed.
Some schools are also considering the possibility of year-round school with 2-6 week breaks scheduled throughout the year. These would function more like bad weather days in that if there is a need to close the school due to another outbreak, days off can be made up for during these planned weeks off.
Invest time in studying various ways of handling the needs that have presented themselves, research virtual or blended systems and curriculums that are tried and true, and create a solid plan that works for your community.
There are curriculums that already have the virtual lessons in place so teachers can focus on facilitating learning and helping the students. This will free them of the time they have had to spend this spring in developing new lesson plans and filming lessons.
Teachers appreciate sincerity, but this is a time when they need administrators to be strong and confident.
Be prepared for questions and resistance. The best way to combat uncertainty is with a solid, well-thought-out plan (which you likely learned the hard way this year).
Have an open door (or ear if you’re not back on campus) and listen as teachers come to express their fears and anxieties. Explain that you understand and can relate from your experiences of learning new things and changes in your career.
When you have those doubts or start to feel overwhelmed, turn to your admin colleagues and mentors to voice your concerns and frustrations. But try to turn to problem-solvers, not those who will just add to or unload on you as well without working to find solutions.
Teachers were thrown into this without much warning and feel like they haven’t stopped running since March. The timeline is moving quickly, and August will be here before you know it. Teachers have had several weeks experimenting with remote teaching now and have ideas of what works and what doesn’t work.
Facilitate conversations within teams. What did they like about this experience? What could the school have done differently to ensure greater success? What support did they need but did not get? How would they plan differently if they would have had more time to prepare? What things did they try that they hadn’t tried before?
Listen and take notes. Commit to assisting them. Reassure them that the district is working on a plan. And ensure that they get practical training that will enable them to be confident and successful.