If you ask any educator, they’ll tell you that they are a different teacher today than they were at this time last year.
COVID-19 and teaching through a pandemic challenged our teaching force to figure out new, creative ways to reach and teach every student as they too redefined what it meant to be a learner during this time. I’d liken it to those stories you hear about mothers lifting cars off their children- that superhuman strength and steadfast determination that comes over someone when the people they love are in danger. Our students needed their teachers to compartmentalize their own grief and worry and step up for them, and that is what teachers all across the country did.
As more and more schools get back to a typical school schedule, with students in physical classrooms, we’re hearing from teachers the need for time, space, and the opportunity to process how they and their teaching have changed. Teachers are needing to connect with their colleagues, share the good, the bad, and the ugly, problem solve, celebrate each other, and share best practices. As we work with school leaders who are holding the tension between wanting to create that space but also make up for lost instructional time, we keep hearing the same question:“we know our teachers have a lot to work through - how can we structure that conversation in a way that is reflective and asset based?”
As we heard this shared need come from both teachers and leaders across schools, we wanted to offer tools to promote reflective conversation.
What resources could we share to make space for the “real-real” to show up? How could we foster shared dialogue and strengthen the toolkit of practices that teachers already have?
To that end, we created the “Lessons Learned Roundtables” toolkit with a facilitation guide, slide decks, and reflection tools for a staff discussion focused on identifying and sharing what staff members learned over the past year and what they wish to carry forward.
The toolkit includes two different protocols to choose from, both of which can be implemented in online or in-person contexts.
- Protocol #1 – Reflect on your teaching practice. What have you learned about yourself as an educator this year? How have you changed?
- Protocol #2 – What will you take away from this year’s experience?
We’ve had the opportunity to use this toolkit in schools and districts over the past month or so and we’d like to offer some of these takeaways from instructional coaches at Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, and highlight some of the many hard-earned lessons educators have learned over the past fourteen months:
- “The pandemic has forced us to learn to be flexible thinkers and flexible do-ers in our practice.”
- “I have learned about interdependence — we can’t do this work alone.”
- “I discovered new strengths that I hadn’t had to flex in the past.”
While the pandemic has stretched us all, it has also created opportunities to rethink practice, and to imagine alternatives to “returning to normal” as restrictions begin to lift.
The end of this academic year, and the transition to reopening in many places, can be a particularly valuable moment for reflection and processing. We are pleased to share a free resource for school-based teams to support you in the process of looking back at all you have experienced and looking ahead to integrate new learning into your work with students.
We are always looking to learn from practitioners. If you try this process out with your colleagues or staff, we’d love to learn from your experience! Take a moment to share your thoughts here.