Depending on your school calendar, you may be closing out the year this week or preparing to close out the year in a few weeks. No one knows what school will look like in the fall. (Will we “back to normal” with school resuming the way it ran pre-COVID? Will we still be doing what we’re doing now—purely distance learning? Will we have a hybrid model that blends occasional in-person classes with online tasks?) However, we can make a plan to prepare for whatever school looks like at the start of the next school year.
Quick side note: I know thinking about the next school year before you’ve even had a taste of summer break may have zero appeal. If that’s the case, bookmark this article or add the link to your calendar for a date later in the summer as a reminder to read it when you’re ready!
If you’ve already been thinking about Fall 2020, let’s dive into some things we can do to prepare ourselves for the various possibilities.
Teachers, especially if you’re still teaching, ask yourself what you can invest time in now that you can use later. Check out my recent “opportunity” series (posted from mid-April to early May) for examples. Generally, this could be a protocol (activity) or a tech tool you’ve started using or resources you’ve been curating and can re-use next year. The through-line could be even more general like a mindset shift or a new approach (e.g., promoting student ownership) that you’ve adopted in the virtual space and could continue to use next year.
Leaders, we’ve talked about this in a previous post. Communicate a clear vision that encompasses steps you’ve taken to adjust to distance learning now and the things you want to see next year and even further into the future.
Plan Your Budget
Teachers, this is not a call for you to spend your own money, although I know many of us do, out of necessity. I’m talking about your use of Teacher’s Choice money (if you have a similar program) or what request(s) you want to post on Donors Choose.
Leaders, if you’re still putting together your 2020-2021 budget, there is so much to consider. Of course, for most schools, funds are likely to decline either as a result of declining enrollment or COVID-related state budget cuts. Consider what you absolutely need to support students. If there’s a chance we’ll still be doing distance learning or a hybrid model, technological infrastructure like student devices and wifi access will be critical, but you can probably avoid spending money on software and opt for free versions of tech tools. You may want to consider reaching out to a school who recently received a tech grant to see if you could take or borrow their older devices they are no longer using. After you’ve covered all of the “must haves,” determine your priority for the remaining funds. (Do you want to invest the money in distance learning training for your staff this summer? Do you want to hire or contract someone to address mental health concerns? Do you want to pay people to run virtual clubs or sports practices to maintain the extracurricular elements of school?)
Invest in Summer PD
Teachers, seek out your own personal PD. This could be listening to educational podcasts or reading educational blogs or books. (My favorite educator podcasts include: Cult of Pedagogy, Truth for Teachers, and for tech—Google Teacher Tribe.) I’ll be holding a free masterclass on curriculum design in July, so keep an eye out for that!
Leaders, you too can seek out personal PD. The podcast recommendations I mentioned above are good for instructional leaders as well. Here are two leader-specific podcasts I like: Better Leaders Better Schools and Transformative Principal. With this knowledge, you can design your own PD for the staff, facilitate a staff success share (i.e., staff-led PD) or find external PD providers to work with your staff.
Teachers, I would prepare for at least a hybrid model of teaching (some days in person, some days online). Consider how you want to adapt your curriculum and pedagogical approaches for this possibility. If you’re excited to design new curricula or feel overwhelmed by the work involved—or feeling a bit of both—I’m launching my self-paced Curriculum Boot Camp course in July. Get excited!
Leaders, make time for teachers to connect as departments or grade teams so they can collectively brainstorm curricular and pedagogical approaches for the fall. Also, connect teachers with PD on this topic (again, hosted by you, your staff or an external provider). Enroll your department leads or grade team chairs in my self-paced Curriculum Boot Camp course in July or reach out to me to schedule personalized, live boot camps for each of your teacher teams!
As always, I’ll close the week with a free resource to get you started…
Curriculum writers, I’m re-sharing this Backwards Planning Template freebie from several weeks ago. Click the button below and plan to your heart’s content!
For transcripts of episodes (and the option to search for terms in transcripts), click here!
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Lindsay Lyons (she/her) is an educational justice coach who works with teachers and school leaders to inspire educational innovation for racial and gender justice, design curricula grounded in student voice, and build capacity for shared leadership. Lindsay taught in NYC public schools, holds a PhD in Leadership and Change, and is the founder of the educational blog and podcast, Time for Teachership.