Guest Contributor: Craig Perrier
As I think about the start of the next school year, the words of the Greek Stoic Seneca come to mind, “Apply yourself to thinking through difficulties – hard times can be softened, tight squeezes widened, and heavy loads made lighter for those who can apply the right pressure.” Wise advice indeed. However, if I was to boil down Seneca’s quote to two words I select “thinking” and “apply” as the essence of his message. The benefits of the two words are most likely obvious – we want decisions to reopen school to be guided by informed action.
Admittedly, I am not an expert in Stoicism. But applying insight from the past to current contexts is a practice that feels right. Moreover, the opportunity to support schools in the present is a valuable and imperative enterprise. Identifying either the established plan or the current thinking about the proposal will be an important step to guide your approach and target areas of need.
School plans are, typically, public documents that are posted on a district’s website and twitter feed; these documents can be lengthy, wordy, and at times ambiguous resulting in more questions than answers. To help you navigate school plans to reopen use these questions below to see if you can find explicit answers. If you can find them, great! The pathway to support is clear. If you can’t find an answer, consider this an area of growth you can support and reach out to the school with options for them to consider.
1. What academic goals and priorities exist?
2. What are the beliefs and expectations for instruction and assessment?
3. What structural and logistical challenges have been identified?
4. How has the school included teacher, parent, and student input?
5. How are teachers being supported as front-line workers?
6. How are schools communicating with parents now and next year?
7. What is the schedule for the next school year?
8. How is culturally responsive pedagogy being utilized?
9. What anti-hate, anti-racist curriculum shifts are being implemented?
10. How is the social-emotional learning part of the plan to re-open?
11. What are the processes taken when someone tests positive for COVID -19?
12. What sanitation processes and supplies exist?
This list of questions is not comprehensive and will certainly generate additional prompts; but excluding any of these, indicates a plan that is in need of support.
Preparing for the next school year, and how to reopen schools, is indeed a daunting challenge that provides the opportunity for needed changes to education. Doing so now guarantees that future challenges are met with the right combination of leadership, resources, communication, and systems.