There is such a rush to get back to normal. Was normal really working anyway? Or could it be the normal had just become comfortable? Just like that down blanket I cover up with on cold nights as I sit in my chair, mindlessly watching television. It is my normal routine most evenings but that normal really is just complacent comfort. Honestly, for me to rise, to achieve the things I dream I can, normal is not going to get me there. Normal is not going to get my students there either. There’s a better way than normal. Stop, take a look around you at all the great things in your life. If you open your eyes, I think you will see that normal is not worth rushing back to.
I was sitting outside on my back porch in Oklahoma in 2020. I was wondering about all the noise in the rush to return back to normal. Doing away with mask mandates. Getting back to all students in-person. Fraud in the election, fraud from Fauci, fraud and distrust in everything, everywhere. It was like the big oak tree in my backyard fell right on top of me. All this clamor to get back to what was, but WHY? Why were we rushing to go back to a system, a way of life, that was broken. Covid pushed people outside that complacent comfort, their down blanket of comfort was taken away. It is my opinion, that too many of us were afraid to be uncomfortable and we were afraid to see the endless opportunities that this pandemic was trying to uncover for us.
In education we were forced to be uncomfortable.
Our schools faced much of the same. In education we were forced to be uncomfortable. We had no choice but to adapt and figure out how to do school in an entirely different way. Whether we recognized it or not, we had to see the student, the child and our focus on data and test scores faded. The relationship centered movement gained a tremendous amount of traction. Did students fall behind due to being virtual, I am sure that they did. However, the students became more than just data and scores. We knew their names, their faces, and their stories more than ever before. They needed the connection with us, as educators, and we needed the connection with them. In the rush back to normal, my fear, is that we will lose sight of the lesson these last 24 months has been teaching us.
There is a place for data. Test scores have a purpose. But they had become rather pointless without that real, authentic connection. As educators, as schools, our eyes should have been opened to the balance that was lacking in our educational system. Sometimes we have to take a step backwards, so that we can really begin to move forward. So moving forward what will we choose to see? Will we stay above the line and see all that is right in what we do? Or will we rush back to normal, get back to testing and data, and lose the importance of building real relationships with our kids. Teachers have been able to earn the right to hear their kids stories because we have not had to spend all of our time teaching to one end of the year test.
Here are a few ideas…….
So how can we take what we have learned, what we knew before and make the educational experience we provide our young people full of purpose and passion. Here are a few ideas that might help us not fall into a complacent comfort the rush back to normal would bring.
- Continue to implement the technology and further develop ways we have been forced to embrace to further advance all student learning styles.
- Plan in the daily schedule for time devoted to building relationships and mentoring our students on a more personal level.
- Acquire data more often through out the year and use it to improve the process of our methods instead of end of the year tests. If we are off track and need to adjust, the end of the year is too late.
- Empower administrators, teachers, coaches, and support staff to work as one team for the young people we serve by focusing on the process instead of a data driven end goal.
- Keeping in focus the number one priority, the student and that their success is built off a foundation of trusted and safe relationships with their teachers.
We are not just surviving a pandemic, we are thriving.
My school district has seen the top SAT composite score for the junior class in it’s entire history. The middle school where I work has seen great growth and are exceeding the state average in almost all areas that are measured. The administration, staff, students, and parents are more connected and on the same team than ever before. We are not just surviving a pandemic, we are thriving.
…..in our rush back to normal.
Don’t rush back to normal, it was only comfortable for you. Instead, see all the opportunity for growth. See all the obstacles as opportunities. Take what was good from before and add it to what we have learned as we move into a new reality in education. Let’s not what the same ol, same ol, let’s demand better. A constant state of growth takes work, it is sometimes painful, but it also brings out the secret sauce in what we do. It opens our eyes to WHY we do what we do as educators. We have the greatest job in the world, we get to lead and love kids to believe that they are the greatest miracle in the world. Let’s not lose sight of that in our rush back to normal.
One big important thing that I have learned through all this is that I never want to be normal again. So we sold our home in Oklahoma, moved to our dream home in Woodland Park, Colorado and decided that normal was not what we wanted. Why wait till retirement, why stick to what is the norm. Instead live and live your life big. Because in that rush back to normal, we tend to lose the excitement of why we are alive in the first place.