This is the latest in a series of blogs by partners of the Fluency work.
By Tom Daley
As we are all wrapping up the 2019-2020 school year, our minds collectively fast forward to the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year and we begin to think, “Where do we go from here? What’s next?”. It is important to remember that none of us have all of the answers to these questions and we must rely on one another to navigate the “new normal”. Being part of the Fluency Project and having access to so many great minds is a major advantage as we plan for the future. I have found that as we attempt to answer these questions, there naturally arises more questions. So, I would like to provide you some of my thought process over the last few weeks……..
We are not hitting “reset”
The students we serve have not been in school since mid-March. Therefore, we cannot expect these students to just come back and pick up where we left off. School will not be the same at the end of August as it was prior to the pandemic. So, we need to think about our expectations for the coming year and then adjust them to the guidelines and requirements established by our governing agencies. We also must consider what the experiences of our students have been like since we last saw them in the classroom. What has their remote learning experience been like? What has their home life been like?
Focus on relationships and routines
We will need to consider the types of relationships our students have had. Have they interacted with their peers? Have they been in loving and caring environments? Have they experienced trauma? The answers to these questions will have a huge impact on the type of student who will enter our school in the fall.
It is also imperative that we set up routines and focus very heavily on teaching the routines and expectations of school in its’ new format. The majority of our students will not have had a routine in some time. Many did not have expectations for their academic performance or behavior during quarantine. We must expect difficulties and consider when students last had demands placed on them.
We must establish positive relationships and simultaneously communicate our expectations for routines. Only then can we begin to think about our academic approach. How long will it take to build these relationships and establish routines? We don’t know, this has never happened before. But, we definitely cannot go from 0-60 and immediately start panicking about covering every standard. We need to meet the basic needs of our students first.
Once we have built solid relationships and established new routines and expectations, we need to think about what are the most important things to learn and how can we make it relevant? How can we incorporate meaningful assignments and assessments (projects and products)? How can we incorporate and maintain collaboration and communication in a setting where distancing is expected? Is the work being done capitalizing on the unique skills and talents of those individual students so that we are cultivating their skills and talents for their future success?
If the relationships are there and the material is relevant, it will not matter what the format for learning looks like. It will happen regardless.
This thought process leaves us with a number of questions. It can be overwhelming to try and answer them all by ourselves. There are a number of individuals (Eric Sheninger, Brad Johnson, Angela Duckworth, Matt Miller and Weston Kieschnik) whom I follow on social media that are great resources. But, some of the best answers have come from right here at home. I am lucky to have been part of the Fluency Project and I and thankful for my Fluency Project colleagues who provide inspiration and guidance as I attempt to find the answers to these questions.
I will leave you with a Tweet from Dr. Brad Johnson, “Relationships before Rigor, Grace before Grades, Patience before Programs, Love before Lessons”. As I always say, it must start with the administrators and work its way through the staff and into the student body.
Tom Daley graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2002 with a major in Biology. Upon beginning his coaching career, Tom also began substitute teaching and returned to complete courses to obtain his licensure. He started his teaching career at the Jefferson County JVS in 2005 as a science instructor. Tom received his Master’s in Education from Franciscan University in 2009 and completed coursework for his Principal’s License through Indiana Wesleyan University in 2017. He is entering his fourth year as principal at Bridgeport High School. Tom is a member Cohort 3 of The Data and Technology Fluency Project with West Liberty University and the CREATE Lab (situated in Carnegie Mellon University). Tom’s special interests include sports and travel and spending time with his wife Julie and daughters Grace (5) and Lily (2).