Whether you are writing your transition plan, preparing to return, or have already returned to in-person learning, you, like many other educational leaders, are likely facing many challenges and unknowns.
As you continue to craft and refine your plans, reflecting on the considerations below can help you more effectively build a blueprint for a successful reopening.
1. Consider what we do know.
We may not know what in-person learning will confidently look like as we reopen and transition back to the classroom. Will it be a new normal with socially-distanced parameters in place? Will it return to our ‘old’ normal? Or, will it be different in ways we never anticipated? With so much still unknown, it’s critical we root our decisions in what we do know, and what research supports and has proven. Research has proven that quality teacher-child interactions matter. And now, in a time where we are planning to return to in-person, they are even more critical. As you refine your reopening plans, ensure it focuses on what we know matters most -- high-quality interactions.
2. Consider the well-being of your staff, your children, and their families.
January was the deadliest month for the Coronavirus thus far. For almost a year, we all have been facing the stress, anxiety, and worry associated with Coronavirus and its aftermath. Many have lost jobs, family members, friends, or have felt a loss in other ways, like loss of normalcy. As you write your reopening plans, build opportunities to learn trauma-informed strategies, build opportunities for self-care, build structure to mitigate burn-out, and focus on being responsive to the well-being of those around you, and also yourself.
3. Consider the classroom environments.
For most, reopening plans include children returning to the classroom for the first time in almost a year, if not longer. As you build your plans, reflect on the classroom and how to best support your teachers in creating environments that are warm and welcoming, and support children’s social-emotional learning and development. Determine how you will ensure equitable experiences across the classrooms in your programs, and ensure that each child has an environment that maximizes their potential through high-quality interactions.
4. Consider your staff’s professional development needs.
As the landscape of education continues to evolve, the needs of your staff and professional development opportunities may continue to evolve. As you plan for the reopening, rather than be for this school year or next, think about how your organizational structure may have shifted, and the needs your staff may have as a result. In your reopening plans, includes opportunities to rebuild your workforce if needed, to invest in professional development that supports quality interactions, and to offer trainings that address the challenges your teachers may face in returning to hybrid or in-person classrooms.
5. Consider your needs as a leader.
What services, systems, and partnerships do you already have that can support the critical work of reopening and transitioning back to in-person learning? At Teachstone, we are committed to serving as your partner and helping you to navigate these unprecedented times and determine the right supports and services to best set your program up for success.
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
In the wake of the widespread civil unrest after the killing of George Floyd, the national conversation about the inequities in the educational opportunities provided white students and students of color has been amplified. Due to racial and socioeconomic segregation, Black students, and other students of color, are more likely to attend poorly funded schools. EdBuild, a non-profit focused on fair and equitable school funding, reports that high poverty school districts that predominantly enroll children of color receive on average, $1,600 less per student than the national average. By their calculations, there is a $23,000,000,000 gap between funding for schools that primarily serve high poverty Black students and those that predominantly serve white students. Schools that predominantly serve high poverty white students, only receive $1440 less per student (EdBuild, 2019).
I recognize and admit to having a chip on my shoulder about the field of early childhood education - and, at times, disbelief that others may not see that period of time as the power-packed years in our developmental timeline which can lay the groundwork and set the course for much of the rest of our lives.
When I first learned about CLASS Group Coaching—a training for early childhood professionals about building relationships with children—I was more than a little interested. This, I thought. This is what teaching is all about. It seems to be an obvious concept, but once we dig deeper, we are able to identify the whys and hows of our interactions. CLASS Group Coaching allows us to identify the benefits of our classroom relationships with our students and helps us be intentional in our daily practices. It allows us to utilize each moment we have with our students to deepen our understanding of their perspectives and genuinely connect with them as people. It helps us see the world from their view and guide their learning in a way that is relevant to them.