In my job as a literacy consultant, I work mostly with teachers and administrators, not students. While I sometimes miss the kids, I really love getting to serve the grown-ups in the system because we are all learners, and sometimes – heck, way too often – we spend all of our energy worrying about how our students are doing and not enough time attending to the adults. So this year that’s what I’m blogging about: taking care of the grown-ups.
I’m not really a New Year’s resolutions kind of girl. They just aren’t my thing and never have been. But especially this year. I just don’t know if I can really take one more challenge to change something when everything in this past year has been changed and challenging.
Something that is my thing, though, is planning ahead (without the loaded nature of a resolution). My daily and weekly to-do lists help me keep track of what’s coming up and how I need to prioritize. And while it seems nearly impossible to do too much planning ahead during this time when everything changes almost daily, I know that we are at a crucial time for exactly that.
See, one of the most impactful things that I do in my practice is to pause, reflect, and plan after I’ve done something new or big. After I facilitate a new professional learning session, I’ve found it’s so important to set aside time to reflect on how it went and what I might do differently in my next go-around. And, even though I know that this reflection and planning time is some of the most important work I do, if I’m not careful, my schedule will get away from me, and I’ll find that too much time has passed for a really meaningful look at how things went. This year, everything we’ve done has been new and big, and I’m afraid that we’re at that point where, if we don’t make time to do it soon, time will get away from us, and we won’t have gotten the chance to really look back and plan for what’s next.
Everyone is in different places in terms of what they’re experiencing right now, but it seems as though we’re all on the threshold of change. There’s the potential for vaccinations that could drastically impact our schools. It’s the start of a new semester, and some courses are ready to start over again with a new roster. And some schools are reexamining their plans and altering their method for instruction.
Maybe what’s next for you is a shift into a new mode of instruction: hybrid, in-person, or remote, and you want to think about what you’ll bring from one mode to the other. Or maybe your next move is holding tight in the same situation as you were this fall and planning for a fresh start in a new semester. Or maybe you want to start looking ahead at the 2021-22 school year. (Yeah, that may sound crazy, but really, this is the time to do it – especially if you’re going to need to request any kind of funding to support your plans.)
With as often as 2020 turned out to be a mess, it’s tempting to want to set everything from this past year on fire and never see it again, but I think that would be a shame. Yes, there were extraordinary hardships and trauma that I hope no one ever has to experience again. And yes, there are plenty of pandemic practices that really deserve to be pitched. But I also think that we’ve learned a lot since last March, and we need to honor that and think about which of our new learnings were just for survival purposes and which might have some staying power.
So here is a version of a protocol that I’ve used when I’m reflecting on something new or big that I’ve done. Use it on your own or with your department or PLC. Use it to head into the new semester or to start thinking ahead to the 2021 school year. Use it to make lists, write narratives, or generate discussion. But no matter how you use it, give yourself the grace to acknowledge that you’re surviving, you’re learning, and you’re doing great work for students now and in the future.
Scrap: What do you want to toss out and never do again?
For me in my role as a consultant, I’d give my left foot to never have to have a full day of non-stop zoom meetings again. We need breaks, we need movement, and good grief, we need interactions with real humans who aren’t on the other side of a computer screen.
Adapt: Where are there some good bones that you might rework for new contexts or with new understandings?
Before last March, I wasn’t a big fan of webinars. I attended when I needed to, but hosting them intimidated me, and I could pretty much always think of a reason to opt for in-person if given the choice. Now I not only realize their value as they’ve become necessary, but they’ve made me reflect on their wider impact. I am a consultant for an Intermediate School District, which means that I serve several public school districts without profit. Now, with most of my work being online, I’m finding that professional learning can be even more accessible. Without having to make copies, drive, or order food, it’s easier to host professional learning for free and at times when more people from more districts can make it. To be clear, once it’s safe to do so in my area, I will relish the opportunity to hear the buzz of good group conversation, to gather around chart paper and sticky notes, and to stay after a session just to chat again. But, I also think I’ll think harder about which opportunities for professional learning need to be in person and which should be online. I’ll be more creative when setting schedules that will work for more people. Once we’re back in person, I have no intention of using Zoom as often as I do now, but I will certainly think about how to adapt online and in-person professional learning for the needs of my community.
Welcome Back: What was something you introduced or were introduced to this past year that you’d like to welcome back exactly like it is?
I’ve learned so much about instructional technology. While I can’t wait to get a good old fashioned pad of chart paper and a box of smelly markers back in my little mitts, I also know that tools like Jamboard and Wakelet are too useful to let go. I actually find myself being excited to learn new ways to use these, and I plan to welcome them back into my practice, even after our landscape changes.
How are you reflecting these days? I’d love to hear what you come up with in your own scrap, adapt, welcome back reflections. Share your thinking in the comments below, on facebook, or find me on Twitter @megankortlandt.
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