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Relationships between school leaders, teachers, students, and the community are critical to post-COVID learning

The aftermath of COVID–and the way forward


Relationships between school leaders, teachers, students, and the community are critical to post-COVID learning

This school year began with enthusiasm for educators and students who were able to return to in-person learning after 18 months of remote instruction. Even with masks and other health protocols, educators and students were happy to be back on campus. We have all learned so much during these COVID years—resilience, creativity, determination, emotional well being and the value of teachers.

However, recent months saw school closings begin again because of new virus variants sweeping the country. The plans that administrators and teachers had carefully made were revised again due to changing circumstances. So, where are we now? Schools are still being significantly impacted by absences of teachers and staff due to the virus. This is the most pressing issue for leaders. There are simply not enough people on onsite to teach, engage, or help students reconnect socially and emotionally. The pressure on staff is just tremendous as leaders try to stabilize their teams to provide uninterrupted instruction and services.

From the classroom to the lunch room to the bus drivers and beyond, schools all over the country are facing a shortage of skilled staff to teach students, provide related services, transport children with IEPs, and serve meals. The pressure on leaders is enormous, particularly as they continue to navigate change and attempt to stabilize their campus. The recovery period from several years of disrupted learning will be significant. It will take longer than a single school year.

Leaders need the right partners in the classroom with their teachers to support and lift them up now and into the future. Although it has been a struggle, educators have a strong commitment to maintaining high quality instruction in a shifting landscape.

Moving forward

Some partners are supporting teachers with instructional technology that is adapting to the strengths and needs of every child. With the click of a mouse, there is a data point that we can leverage to improve and accelerate learning through personalized instruction. The accuracy of the data and the reporting allow us to show leaders where our kids are. “Here’s how we know what it means. Here’s what we will do next.” Data makes it easier to communicate clearly with all stakeholders and reassure them that students are always at the center of our plans.

The community needs reliable data that can be shared and discussed so that all stakeholders are clear about student progress and needs. Teachers rely on actionable data to inform instructional decisions, such as skills to target and small groups to create so students’ strengths are leveraged throughout the learning journey.There are resources that provide quantitative data as do other forms of assessment that can be shared, analyzed, and leveraged to make decisions and communicate with stakeholders.

With future health and climate disruptions almost guaranteed, leaders need rigorous and engaging instruction that can be delivered remotely as well as in person. Instructional technology platforms can use adaptive blended learning to pivot instruction from in-person to remote, regardless of circumstances.

If I were still in a district leadership role, I would be leading the charge to plan an academic calendar that incorporates short periods of distance learning, so that we can prepare for another health or climate emergency. I would schedule meaningful periods of distance learning around school breaks where we know infections tend to spread. The shift back and forth between in-person and remote learning would become a seamless transition for both teachers and students. This is an opportunity to be in proactive rather than responsive mode. Because the remote learning sessions are regularly scheduled, we would be prepared for future emergency transitions.

A new understanding

We have learned a lot during this unusual time. The importance of the relationships between teacher and student, school and home and the social and emotional health of teachers and students are all critical to learning. For best results, the school community should be stable, well-staffed, and share a holistic commitment to students.

We have to be honest and clear about how challenging things still are for schools. We entered this school year with hope and optimism, and we had a good first half of the year. Although it is a bit unclear where we will end the year, we know how to leverage the good things we have learned. We know how to support our teachers and leaders to ensure that good instruction continues so that every single student, every single day, has the opportunity to learn how to read, write, and speak with confidence.

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