The month of May is when school comes to an end, but in many ways it feels like we might still be at the beginning. These past few months have forced us to redeliver education in order to cope with the pandemic. School as we know it ceased to exist for the remainder of the year with very little warning.
Now questions remain about what school will look like in the fall. Will we be back to normal in September? I certainly hope not. We have been forced to learn new things and rethink old things. As many have said, it would be a shame if things went right back to the way they were.
So if by “normal” we mean resuming face-to-face education, then I want normal. I want students back in the building, but I want us to rethink and rework the way we do certain things based on what we’ve experienced over the last few months.
Earlier in the school year I wrote a letter to the community entitled “All Hands on Deck.” I stressed that when it comes to ensuring that we are meeting the academic, social, and emotional needs of our students it’s going to take a team effort. That was especially true this year.
Parents were forced to play a much bigger role in their children’s education. Thank you for the hours of work and support you put into helping your students navigate distance learning. While technology allows us to accomplish incredible things, it cannot replace a skilled teacher; watching them work is magic. Distance learning has undoubtedly highlighted that point to families across the country.
With students and teachers done until the fall, it finally feels like summer. Summer is planning time at CHS. It’s when we build the master schedule, create professional development for teachers, and plan out most of the coming year. With so much uncertainty, planning is more difficult than usual. Will we be face-to-face, distance learning, or something in between? What will athletics look like? What restrictions will be in place? We simply do not know.
There are a few things that we do know. Our staff has becoming incredibly familiar with online learning and Google Classroom. Those who had no experience with using technology were forced to learn it very quickly. That fact has led our Building Leadership Team to rethink how we deliver professional development and create space for teacher collaboration. Finding time for teachers to meet, collaborate and give each other feedback is challenging. We once felt everyone had to be in the same room for those meetings. Our comfort with Google Classroom has allowed us to rethink that.
We also know that online learning was a success for some of our students. Feedback from parents, students, and teachers is clear: distance learning was a lot more challenging than face-to-face. That isn’t to say there weren’t some positives. For many of our students, the ability to work at their own pace, re-watch lectures, take the test as soon as they felt ready, etc. was very helpful. How do we take some of the benefits of online learning and work them into our face-to-face model?
I am so proud of our staff for all the hours and work that went into distance learning. Thank you, students and families, for your hard work and patience. With the chaos and stress of trying to navigate these past few months, I’m not sure any of us have had the time to sit down and truly reflect and digest all that has happened. Summer will be my time to do that.
I’m anxious for this pandemic to come to an end and I’m hopeful that the lessons we’re learning from this experience are just beginning.
Eric Bubna is principal of Crookston High School.