Teachers show strength through adversity
August 12, 2021
In many ways, the challenges of the past year have produced stronger teachers and schools.
The teachers returning to classrooms this fall are not the same as the teachers sent home at the beginning of the pandemic. Last year brought about unfamiliar technologies and feverish workloads that have profoundly transformed K-12 teaching and teachers themselves. In many ways, the conditions of the past year produced stronger teachers and potentially more effective classrooms.
As everyone works hard to prepare for the new school year, it’s helpful to step back and review the five major transformations that have made the current crop of teachers better than ever.
Teachers as innovators
In a 59-country survey of how schools responded to the pandemic, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development concluded that much of the success in educational continuity during the crisis was due to widespread innovation on the parts of teachers and administrators. Teachers found themselves on the front lines addressing the challenges of moving from traditional in-person model to a distance learning format.
In LanSchool’s review of distance learning, one in five teachers reported that the greatest benefit of distance learning was the opportunity to innovate. Technology expanded innovation beyond the classroom and school to include a larger collaborative community of teachers, schools, and the educational industry. The need for innovation and creativity for classroom teaching is not going away anytime soon as schools continue to address the aftermath of last year’s school closures.
Teachers are better trained
In their report on the global educational effects of the pandemic, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) found that schools were able to meet the challenges of the pandemic largely because teacher training, support, and collaboration were rapidly expanded and deployed. Things like professional development courses and coaching services were transitioned to an online environment, making these resources more available for on-demand access. The bottom line is this: many teachers received better training in technology, online learning resources, remote learning, hybrid classrooms, diverse teaching methods, and innovation.
These increased and expanded professional development opportunities are likely to remain, as schools turn to address the problems of learning loss, mental health issues, and the greatly expanded role of technology in the classroom.
Teachers have developed skills in fostering independent learning
In many school districts, teachers have had to balance reduced instruction hours with a greater amount of time devoted to asynchronous, independent learning. By necessity, many have modified their instructional schedule to help students succeed in independent learning. Some teachers pre-recorded lectures for offline viewing while devoting face-to-face time to working with students. Other teachers pivoted to using instructional time to guide students through processes they need to complete asynchronous work.
With more opportunities to work independently, many students have developed skills as independent learners and problem-solvers. When they return to class in the fall, teachers will have more opportunities to better utilize class time to further skills like independent learning, critical thinking and collaboration.
Teachers are better at targeted instruction and personalized learning
The pandemic challenged many high schools and middle schools to develop more flexibility, giving students opportunities to move at their own pace and demonstrate their learning in various ways. In addition, schools discovered and deployed online learning resources and curricular materials designed specifically to take students through the material at their own pace.
Many of these resources were data-rich, providing students, teachers, or parents a detailed picture of the student’s mastery of the material as well as deficiencies or bottlenecks. Out of necessity, then, many teachers pivoted to targeted instruction and personalized lessons in both their asynchronous learning materials and their face-time with students.
As schools play catch-up, targeted instruction and personalized learning are considered by many as the superior option to remediation. Teachers on this end of the pandemic are more skilled in creating personalized learning and more proficient with technological tools and resources that can effectively guide targeted instruction.
Teachers embrace new tools to connect with students and parents
It is known that technology connects people in powerful ways. Teaching in the pandemic has been a crash course in connecting people in schools through various technologies such as, video conferencing, chat, classroom management software, and social networks, just to name a few.
Many K-12 teachers experienced digital classroom management tools such as LanSchool for the first time during the pandemic—powerful software that allowed them to connect with their students, monitor their activities, and address issues in real-time. Digital classroom management tools have connected teachers with students and parents, connected classrooms with other classrooms, and brought together students from different schools.
Many teachers have mastered both using and managing connectivity resources, and as a result, many developed habits of communicating with a wider audience. These new communication tools and skills will change what it means to teach a class, work with students, involve parents, and connect students with community resources.
Despite the pandemic there is plenty of good that teachers, schools, and communities accomplished when confronted with its challenges. It is through their hard work and inventiveness that teachers, support staff, and administrators are walking into the new school year better than they were the year before: more skilled, more innovative, and more attuned to the individual needs of students as learners and people.
For a good overview of how teachers experienced distance learning in the last year, download LanSchool’s Distance Learning in Review 2021.
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