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Teaching and Leading with a COVID-19 State of Mind

There's an old tale about Rip Van Winkle and how he slept for 100 years. Well, it really wasn't 100 years, it was more like 20 years, but that's beside the point. The main point in that story revealed that he would awaken to drastic changes to the world he once knew after his long slumber. Can you imagine going off into the wilderness for 20 years or so, and when you return home, the comforts you once knew have all changed? Paper money has been replaced with digitized "coins." The world is smaller because we can fly literally anywhere in the world. There's a running joke in the halls of academia that the only thing that remained the same after Rip's sleep is education! Rip walked the streets of his new community and didn't recognize the banks, the people, the airport, or public transportation. He did, however, recognize the school. It had not changed in 100 (or 20) years.

Of all the versions of Rip's story- that part is true- education has remained the same. Rows and columns of chairs, the teacher in front of the classroom, the principal being the chief overseer, and the schools are still segregated based on zip code. But COVID-19 will force drastic changes to our education system.

Here are a few strategies today's educators can use to meet their learners' needs in a COVID-19 kind of world!

One- embrace the power of technology. Regardless of what you may think- students do not know more than you when it comes to using technology in the classroom. They may be better at consuming or using devices, but how to effectively use a calculator, Smartboard, or Chromebook in the classroom is foreign to most students. Utilize all the technology tools at your disposal. I am a proponent of the Smartboard in the classroom and its companion Notebook software. As a campus principal and district-level executive, I led many initiatives to implement both platforms. Once the teachers became comfortable implementing, teaching and learning soared.

Two- the days of an absent student can be erased. I'm not talking about truant students or students who refuse to attend class. I'm speaking of a student who is unable to attend school for medical reasons. Or the athlete who has to perform and must miss your class. Or the family who must travel and take their children with them. Those students would prefer to attend school but are unable through no fault of their own. Many older students have families of their own to support. They must provide financially for their families, and going to school six to eight hours per day doesn't work for them. Instead of allowing them to drop out of high school, why not create a system that works for them. Use your technology tools to connect with your students remotely. Platforms such as Zoom, Google Meets, and the aforementioned Smart Notebook software allow all students to attend class remotely and complete assignments.

Three- encourage students to aspire to careers that don't require a college degree. COVID-19 has created many opportunities for future generations. We all know that most will never attend college, and even less will ever receive a college degree. Many careers are available for students who choose to start their professional lives after graduating high school, most of which are never taught in high school. Prepare your students to reach for the impossible. Whether through teaching mindfulness or meditation, expose your students to be open to new possibilities. COVID-19 has been disastrous for many families, but it has also opened up so many new opportunities. Educators must seize this opportunity to meet their students' needs where they are and not expecting students to arrive to them unharmed.


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