So many of us are anxious to see our kids again, to start a new school year, to make sure our students are okay. We are ready to start over, to have classes in our rooms so we can get eyes and ears on kids, to have breakfasts and lunches in the cafeteria, and to get back to the schedule of the day—a return to normal or a semblance of normal. But I don’t think there is a return to normal. We have all experienced a major psychological and social event that we have all had to give serious time, effort, work, and attention to.
This year has defined change and adaptation for everyone, and for educators, it was on a whole other level. Learning that school districts in several states would close for the remainder of the year was a big blow after we all had to “eat the whole elephant” of remote learning in such a small window of time while making sure that students and families were well and taken care of.
It was devastating to have to adjust to not seeing learners every day. It’s heartbreaking when you think of the students who rely on school services for so many things. It carries a lot of weight on our hearts. An image burned in my mind is seeing so many districts prioritize making food the first essential distribution and the unwavering efforts to feed families throughout the spring. Growing up, my family would have been one of those in need, so I am very appreciative of districts who made that easy decision and went to extraordinary measures to take care of learners and, in turn, their families.
When anything significant happens, we have physical or mental changes to our makeup that become a part of us. The pandemic has had that kind of significant impact on us, our learners, and our communities. As educators, we should all reflect on how we are different as we look ahead to the fall:
- I like to have students in front of me, but can I build great relationships without being face to face?
- Do I really know how to get in touch with families well?
- Do I really know what engaging work is?
- Did I embrace Maslow’s hierarchy of needs before Bloom’s hierarchy of learning? When I got to Bloom’s, where was I?
- Are my learners engaged? Can I do more to empower them?
- Do I know how ed tech can enhance what I do? Have I taken digital learning far enough?
- Do my students know they can count on me? Are we talking about what is really important? (Interests, spaces, etc.)
- How do my learners really like to learn? What things have their families tried that I need to do?
- What is really important? Do the adults in my school or district agree on what is really important?
When we come back—and we will—”business as usual” should not be the priority. Learners and their well-being will always be the priority, but as we return, take time to reflect and build upon this experience. Using impactful conversations with steps and action-shifts to respond to what we’ve learned this year will be the best “new normal” we can go back to.
Derek L. McCoy is the proud principal of North Asheboro Middle School in Asheboro, NC, and the co-author of The Revolution: It’s Time to Empower Change in Our Schools. He has over 20 years’ experience as a middle level principal, assistant principal, and math teacher, and was named an NASSP Digital Principal of the Year in 2014. Follow him on Twitter (@mccoyderek) and his blog (https://mccoyderek.com/).