Resisting Professional Band-aids: Responsible Solutions for Real Issues

by Jenn Hayhurst

Click here to access the Wakelet

The time between the end of summer and the startup of a new school year is a period of great transition for teachers. There is always a sense of urgency that interrupts our thoughts throughout the day no matter where we are or what we are doing. This urgency comes to call in the middle of the night, rousing us awake with never-ending mental lists and we mumble, “Oh yeah… I almost forgot… I need…” This is all true in an ordinary year, but 2020 has been anything BUT ordinary!

Everything is strange, daunting, and is supercharged with a current of risk. The solid ground beneath our feet that has been laid by years of experience for some, or preconceived expectations for others, is now wavy and uneven. This is going to be really hard, and it seems like everyone feels like a “first-year” teacher. We are a little over our heads (to say the least).

So when I was asked to write this post about resisting the urge to turn to quick fixes in the face of big problems in the form of these “professional band-aids” it couldn’t have come at a better time. I started this post as I often do, reading the Wakelet, and reflecting on the many words of wisdom shared by the #G2Great Professional Learning Network (PLN). As I followed the questions and answers of the chat, I found the calm that has been lacking these past few weeks. I felt gratefully reassured. I was reminded that although this is not a typical year, the shared wisdom of my community was going to be enough to get me through.

We Got This…

Believe that you have the skills to be completely responsive to what your students need this year. Believe that your students are coming into your classrooms, no matter if it is a virtual space, physical space, or a bit of both, with life experiences that are going to help them grow. Assume an asset lens and come at teaching and learning from a position of strength. We got this.

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We are Safe Here…

We can construct a safe place for teaching and learning. Feeling safe comes from knowing you have what you need. When thinking about this year, having what you need might be a Chromebook, extra broadband, or a consistent community meeting to check-in and find out how everyone is doing. Safety comes from everyone taking extra time to reflect on our thoughts and feelings. Talk collectively about what is going on with the students in front of you. See them. Hear them. Be with them. This is how we let the whole classroom community know we are safe here.

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Make a Plan to Teach Them…

Resist the allure of skill and drill programs. In the short term, it may feel like you are giving kids what they need with one of these programs. On the surface, students seem engaged as they recite a frozen script, but believe this; not every child needs the same thing. That is the one constant, and that is why there is no one best way to teach them. Instead, put your faith in formative assessments, think about what they need, and make a plan to teach them.

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Look for the Bright Spots…

This school year is not going to be like any other year – ever. It is going to require solutions to problems you may never have encountered before. This kind of situation requires a deep commitment to doing everything you can to think “outside the box.” Be an advocate for putting students’ needs first and make sure you celebrate every moment of success. In other words, look for the bright spots.

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Put Our Faith in Each Other…

Work smarter by having a strategic plan. Knowledge is a great comfort during uncertain times. Knowing what needs to be taught and when helps a lot! Gather all your assets meaning your colleagues and come together as a group to prioritize what is most important. Then repeat this cycle: teach, reflect, and collaborate to make a new plan. We don’t have to do this alone, let’s put our faith in each other.

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Believe in the Power of Story…

Now more than ever we need to feel connected. Our humanity stems from the stories we share with each other. Stories that come from books, stories we write, and stories that come from the mouths of our students. A story is a mighty thing: it teaches students about each other, it honors who students are, what they believe, who they may aspire to become. Children need to be known, they need to tell their stories so listen to them. Lift those classroom moments up with markers of joy and teach them how to believe in the power of story.

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Keep the Conversation Going…

Now is the time to rally, now is the time to come together and fight for what is in the best interest of our students. Having the benefit of multiple perspectives is not a luxury but a necessity. Talk to teachers in your school who you might not ordinarily seek out. Gather all the information you can and make some decisions on how to proceed. I am reminded of something a friend once told me, “I think better in the company of others.” Me too, so let’s all promise to collaborate and keep the conversation going.

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As I close out this post I (mercifully) realize I have flipped this narrative of the impossible year to one that is full of potential. It could be that in the face of great adversity I might gain some real clarity for what matters most in school. I would not have gotten to this place without the collective wisdom of all of you. I am very grateful to be a teacher among you. Have a great year.