Sunday, June 13, 2021

Lessons in Leadership: 2020-2021 Wrap-Up

I've been struggling to write this blog post for a couple of weeks now, because, really, what can you say to wrap up this school year? It's been an adventure, to be sure. As we get a bit further out from the actual last day of school, I find myself thinking about how we are moving forward -- specifically, how to balance all of the different needs coming out of this year.

Let's start with students. They certainly had an unplanned curriculum this year involving how to use technology in new ways, how to be more independent, and how to be flexible. These are all great skills for our students to learn! Yet at the same time, we know that many of them didn't make as much "traditional" academic progress this year as we would expect in a more normal environment. The gap has widened - the students who did well often continued to do well while those who struggled, for whatever reason, struggled even more in a distance learning environment. Next year will be full of different needs for our students.

Now let's talk about teachers. The summer always brings a much-needed break to rest and recharge, and teachers need to recharge more than ever after this year! The adults in our system are tired. Drained. Exhausted. Burned out. This is why we really struggled to find people to teach summer school. The adage, "You can't pour from an empty cup" is true, and we, as a system, are dangerously close to empty right now.

Balancing these two is where the challenge lies. My district is engaging in a lot of work this summer to prepare for next year, and to be honest, I have mixed feelings about it. I see the need, and I see how it will be a support for teachers. It's worthwhile work! At the same time, it's hard to push down the gas pedal and accelerate our plans in a time when people are so tired. We know the students need it, and as educators, we are trained to put students first! Yet the law of diminishing returns will definitely kick in at some point - when will we start to lose our effectiveness due to exhaustion? I'm personally struggling with this balance, and I know it's something every district is probably dealing with right now! There's no one perfect answer, but I think it's important to hold both student needs and teacher needs in tension as we approach the summer.

One thing I do know for sure is that we are all committed to doing the best we can to serve our students, whatever that looks like. I hope that you all get the chance to relax, play, read a book for fun, lay out in the sun, be creative, spend time with loved ones, and indulge in something exciting this summer! I'm trying to do the same in between the work to set our students up for success next school year too!