February 10, 2021

From Survive to Thrive During the Pandemic: What Happens Next?

Julie Jensen

Learning and Innovation Manager

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You have probably spent hours reflecting on your experiences with your students. After all, you just took a huge leap into what’s been called 21st Century Learning for the past 21 years. However, let’s take one step back from your students and reflect on changes in how you have communicated with and collaborated with your colleagues.  

If we don’t reflect and sort out what happens next, then everything we’ve learned will have been for nothing. You have probably spent hours reflecting on your experiences with your students. After all, you just took a huge leap into what’s been called 21st Century Learning for the past 21 years. However, let’s take one step back from your students and reflect on changes in how you have communicated with and collaborated with your colleagues.  

Laptop on desk with flower in background

Reflect on your experiences from March 2020 to today. When did you shift from teaching/working to surviving to teaching/working while you thrive? At what point did you find your rhythm and routine to know you’ve got this, even though it’s hard? What are your best takeaways from this experience? When we can all be together again, what will you take off your plate and never do again? What were the positive outcomes because of this experience? Think about the following:

Scenario:

Before the pandemic: Who was the “Techie Teacher” on your team or in your school?  Who was the go-to colleague who had an open door to drop everything and help with anything technology?  Perhaps the Techie Teacher created and led anything technology for the team while everyone else had divided duties such as planning a different lesson, organizing supplies for a project, etc. This evolved into a fair compromise for dividing time among the team to deliver lessons in a face-to-face situation while at school. 

March 2020: Major plot twist. Everyone is ordered to stay home and teach virtually. That means teaching via a virtual meeting platform. How comfortable were you with leading your students on the other side of the screen in March 2020? If you were the Techie Teacher, chances are your anxiety wasn’t as high as the teammates who never took on implementing technology with students, but it was just as challenging for you, too. No one was off the hook. In fact, the Techie Teacher was still the go-to person. Unfortunately, the Techie Teacher had to close the always open door for technology help. Even the most skilled teachers with technology had a lot of planning to do as well. Finding help was hard. The entire experience was hard.    

Fast forward to today: How has your team of colleagues grown with the implementation of technology into instruction? How have troubleshooting skills improved? Does your team collaborate and focus on learning goals rather than the technology used to deliver or engage students? Have you learned more about your students as individual learners because the evidence is created with technology? Have you discovered there are times when technology makes sense and times when we need to untether from devices?  

Going from survive to thrive: About 20 years ago, Bernie Dodge, the Webquest guy, was the presenter of a professional development workshop using technology with inquiry-based learning. Before he dismissed our workshop, this was his final message: Be careful when you go back to your school that you don’t go back to normal. Change is hard and your colleagues won’t understand that what you’re doing is what’s best for students.  

Be careful when things go back to “normal” that you continue to embrace the learning you have struggled through and yet you have thrived. Continue to enhance your technology skills and grow your professional learning community to collaborate with educators outside of your normal network. Most of all, have honest conversations with your colleagues to avoid settling back into pre-pandemic habits/roles to ensure that you thrive with new ones.

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