Three Things to Consider Doing Differently This Year With Your Team

By Maria Dyslin, Bright Morning In-Residence Presenter

Summer is renewal time for educators, and this year more than ever, educators need to recover and replenish so they can return reenergized in the fall. As we emerge from this pandemic, it is important to consider the following three things to do differently this year with your team:

  1. Make Time for Reflection

Take the time to pause and reflect. Through all the stress, the continuous changes and all the unknowns we navigated, there was important learning that occurred. We strengthened an ability to cope with ambiguity and developed a preparedness to respond flexibly and quickly, and to change direction rapidly if required. We witnessed physical and mental fortitude and courage from educators. Even while struggling personally with the impacts of the pandemic, we still leaned into the immense challenges before us. We were brave enough to try new approaches and create new structures, even when we weren’t sure what would work. We practiced resilience, reorientation, and reinvention.

2) Harness the Power of Collective Efficacy

If we come out of this experience and fall back on traditional ways of doing things and traditional ways of being it would be a real shame. If anything, the silver lining here is a renewed recognition of–and appreciation for–the importance of the collective wisdom of the educational community. All teachers want to feel a sense of efficacy—the confidence that they are being effective. This past year in education this may have been a challenge for many of us. Developing this confidence occurs more often and more quickly when teachers are part of a professional learning community, working together collaboratively and collectively. Collective teacher efficacy impacts student achievement the most. When teams of teachers truly and fully believe in their collective ability to improve the learning of their students, their students do better and learn more. I encourage you to think about how you can create a strong foundation for your teams this fall by creating the conditions for them to deepen their collaboration. An area often not developed enough is adult social emotional competencies, place an emphasis on this in the fall. What we’ve navigated these past 15 months pushed us to cut through years of institutional and systemic inertia, presenting the imperative and the possibility for change. 

3) Remain Student Centered

As leaders, we look forward to the energy and enthusiasm with which teachers and students return to classes. Beginnings matter. This fall build in time for intentional connection with staff, students and families and ground the year on strong relationships. Identify what was innovative that showed promise and consider how to amplify it moving forward.  Many educators are reconsidering old norms about schedules and thinking about how to incorporate more community-based learning. In addition, we are thinking about how to be more proactive about communicating with families and be more flexible to individual student needs by designing learning around kids’ interests and passions. Collectively we will need to reframe conversations around the learning that occurred during the 2020-21 school year. Rather than an over emphasis on “ the learning loss” and “Covid slide,” start first with helping staff to find what students can do and did learn so we can build on strengths. Certainly there was unfinished learning and things students still need to learn so we must think about ways in which to reimagine our approach to instruction so that it removes unnecessary barriers and guarantees access to all students. Focusing on “what’s possible” instead of “what’s lacking” will help promote persistence and joy in teaching and learning which let’s face it we all need to rediscover.