By. Meredith Biesinger
I don’t think anyone has ever said, “Come to Mississippi, we have everything!” Of the many positive things, I believe Mississippi has, strong internet access is not one of them. Being a Dyslexia Therapist and Director of Professional Development in a rural area in northern Mississippi, I am just ten miles from the closest Microtropolis; Tupelo, MS. There are few schools in Mississippi that are not a Title One school or district. The availability of the internet varies every few miles and is extremely problematic for many students and their families. If virtual learning continues to be a necessity, students will fall behind academically. Broadband and academic consistency are two major concerns, and they often go hand in hand.
Mississippi returned to in-person learning in August. Each district has a different variant of how they’re handling the pandemic, including options such as shorter school days, shorter school weeks, hybrid models, and so forth. However, we have been in session since August 6, and plan on staying in session until the end of May. We are now in planning mode for the 2021-2022 school year, and you are too!
As we plan for the upcoming school year, might I suggest a few words: Be flexible, be intentional, and be consistent. Flexibility is something we’ve all had to become over the past year as things have changed, and we’ve had to adapt to many differences in our professions, and in the way we live our lives. Offering flexible learning tools and resources that can be offered in a traditional classroom, or, in a virtual setting will be essential. No matter what the future holds, every teacher needs to be able to teach their students, whether it’s in a classroom, a virtual setting, or a hybrid scenario.
For the 2020-2021 school year, the Mississippi Department of Education has decided to suspend some policies and grading requirements due to the negative impacts of COVID-19. They are being flexible and made this decision with the intention to help teachers and students overcome a challenging school year. These actions and policies vary from state to state, nationwide, so be sure to research the current policies in place for any and all school districts you are working with. With student assessments potentially changing in the future, there are opportunities for Ed-Tech companies to reinvent the wheel with state departments on what the post-Covid era of assessments will look like.
Effective planning has to be intentional, right? Planning the education of our future generation must be intentional. Creating resources for schools should involve a “what if” game plan. Marketing these resources with the intent of “This will be effective if your school has to shut down, and here’s why,” or “This will be effective for students, even without access to internet,” is gold to district decision-makers who are currently navigating several “what if” scenarios right now.
It’s been said that being consistent is the key to success. I don’t disagree! However, being consistent during an era where there’s not much consistency, is helpful, and quite calming. Consistency helps build relationships of trust, in business, and in everything.
No one has a glass ball to look into and know what the 2021-2022 school year will look like. So, despite concerns, and the unknown, we plan with intention, ensure flexibility, and stay consistent.