So Renay had a bit of a dust up at work. The internet went out as well as power for multiple times during the academic part of the day. While it was eventually resolved, it turns out it was nearly city wide, it felt like one more tumble in the academic year of 2020-2021.
This made us really think about the things that we have heard and seen online about school and perceptions of school and perceptions of student abilities. What does it mean to model perseverance? What does it mean to get up and know you have a plan B, C, and D, and none of them are going to happen? And finally, what does it mean to learn from each other, even in the model of hybrid or online learning?
What are the skills we need?
When this year started, we heard our colleagues talking a lot about grit, perseverance, flexibility, and resilience. These aren’t new concepts. These are words we’ve heard bandied about and encouraged of our students. But never have we had to model this more than in the last academic year. The difference is for this academic year we’ve had to ask “One more thing?” in the most incredulous voice and know we adult educators, have stepped up and will continue. Even when we are out of all the things we use to cope. Even when it sounds like it is literally one more thing.
So, in the moment, there are problems we will solve. Knowing when to throw out the plans and reach for a different day. Knowing everything will work out ultimately and know that what we have is what we can give.
It has never been more important to have these four skills. It has never been more important that our students, who we know are watching, see us attempt to push, even when we might not have all the things we can do. It will be all right. If nothing else we have learned, it will be all right.
These skills are not natural to many students. And certainly not natural to many students with disabilities, though students with disabilities are often taught specific skills to handle things when they are not going well. This is a time to have students step up and use their tools and help other students learn to demonstrate grit, perseverance, flexibility, and resilience.
Learning from a student with a disability is a unique opportunity to have the student with a disability be seen as an expert on something other than their disability or something the student finds fascinating.
What will you take away from this year?
We’ve thought about this a lot. Perhaps more than we should considering everything that will evolve for next year with many districts offering online academies for students and their families who are opting to have a greater online experience for their student.
We want staff and teachers to know that technology is here to stay and it is time to start leveraging that technology. This is hard. Some things, like introductory reading, aren’t easily translated online. Handwriting, the physical act, still has a place in the world. But did it give time for the student whose body is physically not ready yet to start writing?
We want parents to know that we still thank you for trusting us with their child. Five minutes ago, your child was not ready to walk through the door and come to school. And it had nothing to do with masks or no masks or using hand sanitizer. Ten minutes ago, they were wearing a prom outfit. If you really think about the continuum of education—we’ve taken your child and gotten them through to young adulthood mostly the best way the community knows how.
We want the students to know we know there are things that occupy your mind. Whether it was not having food for a day, a week, or the month, or it’s where their best friend really was during class.
We want administrators to know and mostly appreciate that we tried this. It was not great. But if things were to change again, we know we could change and get this done. It was not the best for everyone, and certainly not the way anyone could have ever predicted.
We want the communities we serve to know we see all our students. We want to recognize that the leaders of tomorrow are in our classrooms. We know that this academic year serves as a mark in their lives. Nothing was ever going to change that we know there is an investment in the future of the students that this community serves by having this school, or district, or campus. We know that this campus hopefully represents a safe space for the students who do not otherwise know what a safe place might be. We know that our halls serve more than academics—that social and emotional needs are far greater for many students. We know that families need their students in school not just for the promise of a different future but for the care it provides for students who could not otherwise be at home.
We want to remember and not forget the range of emotions that came from 2020-2021.
One more thing
ParaEducate will not publish next week. We will close for 2020-2021 the following week on June 7.
Do you have any comments about this week’s blog? Do you have a question for us? Would you like to have an opportunity to pilot some materials at your campus? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. ParaEducate is a company providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published during the academic school year on Mondays, unless a holiday or announced day off. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.