Gradual Shift to New Normal

Dec 14, 2020 by James Campbell

Dear Diary...
March 4, 2020: As I was preparing for my trips to Detroit (PBLWorks Spring Summit) and Austin (SXSWedu) my wife was talking about buying masks and this Coronavirus Disease. “Okay, buy the masks” but I am thinking I really need to get my stuff together for my trips.

March 6, 2020: So I received my instructions on our virtual summit and that SXSWedu has been canceled. I really bummed by this, I was so looking forward to seeing my PBLWorks family in Detroit and my #dtk12chat crew in Austin. This whole virus thing seems more serious than I thought. Also my youngest woke up in the middle of the night sick, I was on Dad duty all day.

March 10, 2020: I returned to work after spring break, a little upset because right now I’m supposed to be out of town. Our school has begun preparing for the possibility of distance learning and I am part of the Distance Learning “Hot Team”

March 11, 2020: Sitting in bed scrolling through Facebook, Tom Hanks has tested positive for Covid-19. “Oh no, they got Woody.” As I continue to scroll, NBA season is suspended indefinitely…

March 12, 2020: The decision was made to give our students the 13th off, so that our school could prepare for two weeks of distance learning.

Two weeks became four weeks and now we shall not return to the building this school year. I am in week seven of working from home. This story might sound familiar to your situation and although we could focus on the stories of now.
School may not return to what has been the “normal” routine. There have been murmurs of changing the system for years and COVID-19 may have pushed us into changing forever. When we return; How do we navigate these changes, acknowledge the past and give everyone an opportunity to move forward? As we think forward, here are 5 steps to support a gradual shift. 
  1. Cultural Analysis. A cultural analysis is meant to be a dialogue with a variety of stakeholders (teachers, administration, students, parents, etc.). The overarching questions we may want to consider are: What do we value as a community and what is the ideal method to impart these values to our students? What skills and content do our students need to be successful once they leave our building? How do you give our students access to this information (teaching method, experiences, self-guided)?
  2. Mourn The Loss. When you have determined the skills, content, and the methodologies for attaining these skills, we need to give everyone an opportunity to Mourn The Loss. If your community determines that seat time does not indicate learning or covering a topic does not mean retention of a topic or maybe giving students a voice in the class is necessary, there could be a sense of loss when you remove the traditional norms. Give teachers the space to acknowledge that all content is not necessary. Give parents the opportunity to come to terms with the way they learned in school may not benefit their children in today’s education. Allow admin the chance to develop a leadership style that complements the new direction. The loss is real and if we don’t allow people to acknowledge it, they can’t move forward.
  3. Identify Your Team. After the moment of silence, the next step is to Identify Your Team. Some team members will be “Yes, And” people. These are the people who have been waiting for a change and also have ideas to bring to the table. How do we support these team players as they navigate these spaces. You will have team players that are” Yes, But” people. They are the ones who are on board but they are processing, How are we going to get this done? It is important to help them process and figure out the nuts in bolts. These people will be the ones to keep the new  model together. Finally you have the “No, No, No” people. These are your “tough nuts to crack” and may require a one on one conversation to determine if they fit in the new direction.
  4. Give it Time and Trust the process! Although we had to conduct a quick shift into virtual learning, it will be wise to give your new initiatives time to grow and develop. Give it Time and Trust the process! It will be necessary to gather information along the way. Determine what is working and what is not working,but you should not change your initiatives every 90 days or every year. To have sustained change, it may take 3-5 years.
  5. Celebrate the Wins. As you are making space for process time and trusting the process and your people, be sure to Celebrate the Wins. You cultivate what you celebrate and teachers need to be acknowledged when they give students ownership of their learning, provide authentic assessment, prune some of their learning outcomes, or attempt something new.
I’m looking forward to the day when we return to our schools, see the smiling faces of our students, and conversations with our colleagues. What will bring me greater joy is seeing how this current situation shifts our current educational setting into a better and new normal system of school. 

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