Before I share anything, I need to extend a most heartfelt thanks to educators everywhere who had to shift to "crisis teaching" with almost no notice and little preparation of such an event taking over our world.
Up until March 16, 2021, schooling in New York state was carrying on like most previous years… and then, BAM! COVID-19 became REAL, as all schools in the state closed. Educators found themselves asking:
- Where is Plan B?
- How are we going to teach?
- How are the kids going to learn?
- How am I supposed to have my own children at home and teach my students at the same time?
- What is distance learning?
In her new book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes vulnerability as "uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure" and “it's that unstable feeling we get when we step out of our comfort zone or do something that forces us to loosen control.” Starting around March 2020, many of us had that exact feeling.
“Traumatic events can take a heavy toll on our psychological lives. We recognize and respond to the one-time events that devastate our lives: a fire, an injury, the death of a loved one, a violent attack. But less recognizable, even to oneself, is the cost of relentless stress. The pandemic has created chronic, long-term stress in our personal and professional lives.”
With that said, I think we all need to follow Jim Knight’s sage advice from a previous blog post:
“First off, and most importantly, I think people need to just get through this time. We need to extend grace to others—and that includes ourselves. Many people are worried about their health, their finances, their loved ones, and we need to recognize these are not normal times. So the first thing is grace.”
I believe facilitating an environment where teachers feel safe enough to be vulnerable and share their hopes and goals with an instructional coach will be the best way to bring grace to this sacred space we call teaching.
Even though we are going back in the classroom, this is not going to be a normal fall. Have you ever been on one of those playground rides that spins you around and around—and then you jump off and your head is still spinning? I think that’s the feeling a lot of educators have right now and will continue to have entering the 21’- 22’ school year.
You may be asking yourself, “How do I even start to plan for the new school year?” or “How are my students and teachers feeling about this quickly approaching new chapter?”
I often refer to Jim Knight’s “5 Simple Truths,” for guidance, the first one being:
The statement above was true before the pandemic and I find it even more relevant now. So, where do we start?
A notable positive that came out of this recent devastation is thousands of teachers have familiarized themselves with using video, and many for the very first time. Educators were forced to get comfortable in front of and behind the camera, whether it was leading read-alouds, using TikTok as a motivational tool, creating and learning from YouTube videos, giving students feedback on their work or receiving feedback themselves, and in addition, learning how to quickly use video technology in the first place.
Below, Dennis Dotterer, of Winthrop University, makes a compelling case for using video regularly.
Now that the scary, unknown of video is out of the way, we have a huge opportunity to leverage the power it can bring as we get back to the classroom. This means educators may feel more comfortable with using video for self-reflection, instructional coaching sessions, and practicing peer-to-peer feedback.
I believe luck is when preparation meets opportunity. As educators we have used video in the last 16 months more than ever before. To many, it’s no longer the scary technology it used to be, providing education leaders with the opportunity to start implementing video into their instructional coaching programs immediately. Insight ADVANCE can help launch you on this journey with their video coaching platform, ADVANCEfeedback.
ADVANCEfeedback allows your teachers to connect with peers, coaches, and ed leaders that they trust, giving them the opportunity to form partnerships that will help them grow their practice on their terms. I believe the possibilities are endless when you provide your teachers with a safe space for reflection and constructive feedback--a space to define and approach goals and truly grow as an educator.
The future may look daunting to those returning to the classroom, let’s provide them with the support they need to thrive from the get go. I think you will quickly find connecting them with a coach this fall will not just be a luxury, but a lifeline.
If we consider this notable quote from Tom Sherrington, “If we switch from thinking ‘is this teacher teaching well?’ to ‘which students in this class are experiencing difficulties and why?,’” we open ourselves up to starting trustworthy and genuine dialogue with our teachers.
I think it’s fair to acknowledge that there is no district roadmap from the past to direct you on how to rebound from a global pandemic. A "new normal" awaits you, your students, your educators, and your school. Let’s prioritize extending grace and show support during this difficult transition back into the classroom.