These are not normal times. This is not our new normal. We hear that expression used frequently these days about these days. However, rather than thinking of the current situation as ‘normal’, I prefer to see it as a challenge to the comfortable normal of not too long ago. Within that context, we need to remember that we did not plan for this. We should have, but we didn’t. However, we have been flexible and agile. We have been creative and adaptable. We cannot forget that this did really happen. (Just give it 6 months or so after schools reopen!) Because of COVID-19, we have experienced and learned much. So, as we approach the end of the current academic year, and as we look forward to what a new normal will hold, let’s begin reflecting on this experience and planning for the future.
As we begin to look to a transition back into schools at some point, Adelman and Taylor at UCLA begin with the welfare of students and staff as a priority. They have provided some resources to consider. They can be found here: Addressing Barriers to Learning.
In the meantime, we continue to meet, teach and learn virtually. The Atlantic published a timely article to help teachers plan to teach in the coming days and weeks: What Teachers Need to Make Remote Schooling Work.
We are all well-aware of the personal stress these social, educational, and technological adaptations can have. The CDC has great suggestions for dealing with the new stresses here: Stress and Coping. In addition, as we Zoom with greater regularity, EdWeek provides guidance for Zooming safely: How To Keep Students and Staff Safe on Videoconferencing. On an additional, practical level, the FTC also provides good resources for avoiding new scams online: Federal Trade Commission Scam Prevention Resource. The advice may also apply to some vendors contacting schools with ‘the answer’ to all your safety needs.
Now, let’s look ahead. Earlier, I suggested that we did not plan for this pandemic although we should have. Interestingly, School Safety and Security Alert has summarized What U.S. schools learned from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Although useful, the article does not begin to address other potential new learnings around safety planning. Lest we forget, here are some things to consider:
- Your district and your school’s comprehensive EOP safety plan.
- Assessments to determine needs and resources.
- Think: Site, Culture and Climate, and Capacity Assessments.
- Positive experiences on which to build: (This is a starter list to which you can definitely add.)
- Families more fully engaged than ever before.
- The better understanding of what education involves.
- 21C technologies more broadly implemented.
- New communications tools more widely used.
- New community partnerships and collaborations.
- Distance learning resources available and adaptable to new situations.
- Greater creativity, flexibility, and agility across the K-12 world.
- Resilience in ways we hadn’t considered before.
- Adaptability as an integral role in the future.
Let’s not forget. Rather than waiting for these days to pass, let’s look proactively at our all our new learnings, build on them, and plan for an even better new normal for years to come.