Title 1, Large district, Urban, 9-12
About a month into this school year, a colleague shared clarifying and jarring sentiments. He said, “it feels like we are acting as if everything is normal again.” His comment gave me immediate pause. And as I mentally scanned the current landscape of our school system – its processes, messaging, and decisions, I kept coming back to the same question, “what experiences were students having?” My conclusions, regardless of the scenarios, mirrored what my colleague shared. There is still a crisis, and the best evidence is found in our students’ experiences.
First, how students are learning has become more varied than ever before. Listed below are the main scenarios students can select from in the system I work in:
1. In-class learning
2. Virtual learning
3. Extended absences synchronous learning
4. Extended absences asynchronous learning
5. Independent curriculum provider learning
Additionally, students are opting to leave public schools for independent, religious affiliated, and private virtual schools. In short, the public school experiences portrayed in movies and television are nothing like the current realities.
So, how should public schools respond to the current crisis splintering the student learning experience? Well, the comment mentioned earlier by my colleague has been revisited by me every day. The amount of time thinking about this has generated a few ideas below that need to be at the forefront of your approach to working with schools.
It is essential to recognize and affirm the current situation. The opposite approach, ignoring or denial, is both non-starters. Once this door is open, mindsets and actions can change.
Take a look at your communication practice with particular attention to these three aspects.
1) Are there people missing at the table? Expand who you communicate with and get people to the table who haven’t been there
2) How is the public engaged? The key aspects of this communication are who, when, what, and how. They can’t be partners unless the communication is there.
3) How do you influence perception? We hear a lot about the negatives and shortcomings of education. How do you communicate the positives and successes?
Change happens often and quickly. Are your systems and personnel able to do the same? With agility comes resilience and opportunity as changes are evaluated and acted on for innovation.
The curriculum is enacted through designed learning experiences. Moreover, the curriculum should be concept-based and connects to contemporary life beyond the classroom. If a curriculum lacks any of these traits, it is less meaningful. It will benefit from refinements to instruction and assessment.
I hope that these practices become part of the permanent culture. I call this using the “now” to make the future “better.” Avoid the opposite approach, which sees the now as “stop-gap” behaviors or “emergency actions.” Identifying how you can assist schools in taking on any changes will put you at the head of the pack.
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