Most teachers don’t have summers “off.” Teachers can be found teaching summer school, tutoring, working part-time positions or full-time parenting. This summer, however, teachers have been presented with entirely new challenges to consider as they plan for the next school year with the unknowns of the pandemic continuing.
Of course, most teachers are hoping for a return to regular face-to-face instruction and a full classroom, but as governments start announcing their guidelines, it seems like that might not be the case. We need to consider alternatives as we continue to prioritize the health of teachers and students. We also need to think about how we can make distance learning better – how to double down on what was successful, how to consider participation when you have students who are extremely anxious about speaking in class, how to give students the opportunity to move at their own pace.
Whether its blended learning, distance learning, flipped instruction, remote learning or whatever terminology you prefer to use, the planning that stands before educators right now is daunting. What can we possibly do to prepare for an ambiguous learning environment?
In our district, here are the steps we’re taking in order to be as prepared as possible:
- Committees: We’ve formed committees in our district to tackle what we’re calling Distance Learning 2.0 as well as a plan for a hybrid scenario. Although we’d love to be planning for a “back to normal” situation, we feel our time is best spent on those two possibilities. Groups of teachers, paraprofessionals, counselors, administrators, other staff members, parents and students will work together to develop a plan so we can move forward with granular planning as soon as we are provided with additional guidance.
- Lessons That Work Both In-Person and at Home: With a mindset around best practices and personalizing instruction, teachers are compiling resources and activities that address essential learning standards and targets, and that would work for both classroom and virtual environments. Unlike the quick turnaround we faced when schools initially closed, the summer is providing us with valuable additional time to intentionally plan with a broader approach to optimize the digital learning experience for all learners.
- Professional Development: Both the format and content of professional development for teachers have changed. We’re working with other districts in our area to develop a blended learning certification course to help prepare teachers to teach in this new way. The advantage of developing this course ourselves is that we can personalize the experience to our own districts while also giving teachers the chance to interact, connect with and support each other. By pooling our resources, we’re providing our teachers the best continuing education possible so they in turn feel ready to support their students.
- Relaxing: We have spent quite a bit of time in our district focusing on circles of control. We worry and stress over the unknown future, but there’s only so much we can do. By focusing on what’s in our control, we can plan and prepare to the best of our ability. By letting go of the rest, we feel a little less overwhelmed.
There will undoubtedly be last-minute decisions and trouble-shooting that will pop up as we get closer to the new school year. But by taking these steps, we’re giving ourselves the best chance we have to be prepared and successful for whatever comes our way. And that’s the best we can do.