Virtual Learning

Loss and Opportunities

 Challenges and Recovery

By Craig Perrier

 

For over a year the feeling of loss has run rampant across the educational landscape. The shifts in learning environments, hiring shortages, and unexpected staff exits from the profession ultimately impact the ways teachers teach and students learn. Compounded with irregularities in time and schedules one can conclude that the future of education can no longer rely fully on the lessons of the past.

But to what extent has this temporal continuum been severed? For instance, even before COVID-19, educational technology had been a game changer and focus on mental well-being ushered in a paradigm shift. So, as educators, parents, politicians, and students contemplate how schools can look back and ahead with 20/20 vision it will be important to be aware of the types of lenses they are looking through and interpreting the loss.

Getting tuned into a school’s educational world view can happen in many ways. I suggest subscribing to district twitter accounts and newsletters. Likewise, attending live or watching archived school board meetings provides a treasure trove of information. Finally, arranging time to talk to school and district leadership allows for dialogue and a direct contact for future networking. Regardless of your method for information gathering, you should look for practices, policies, needs, and silences related to the categories below. To help with that exercise, I have included sample articulation of each from my system.

1. Loss:

People often equate this with academics. That certainly is true. Moreover, how a school views achievement will be important to know. Other areas of loss relate to social interaction and behavior management, affective and emotional loss, and motivational and resilience decreases.

 

2. Opportunities:

What positives occurred in the last few school years? Identifying and supporting these “the good” related to instruction, assessment, well-being, and outreach, are often forgotten or marginalized. Helping schools coordinate and scale unseen advantages or models from other schools will be well received.

 

3. Challenges:

Knowing the systems that exist in schools and the community will reveal challenges. Once this occurs, it will be important to address these and anticipate others. For example, issues around communication, professional development, and infrastructure were all challenges we have had to address.

 

4. Recovery:

Identifying criteria or targets to strive for are difficult to develop. The best indicators are a mix of qualitative and quantitative factors. Moreover, how is recovery

of loss done – what is in place to make recovery happen. Reporting efforts and updates to stakeholders is a key part of recovery efforts.

Underlying all of these categories are topics related to equity. A helpful dose of questions when discussing any educational topic probes the systems, infrastructure, and practices in place that broaden accessibility to all students. When areas of inequity are revealed, these are additional areas to provide support to schools.

The bard, William Shakespeare, reminds us to “Make not your thoughts your prisons.” But this is more than just a reminder – it is a call to action. In contemporary language we say something like “think outside of the box.” Bringing that disposition to the table opens possibilities and injects optimism into the conversation. Both qualities are needed in education now and in the future.

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