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Looking forward to a new (and better) normal
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Dana Anderson – June 8, 2021
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Coming off of a year of remote schooling, one thing hasn't changed — educators are always looking for ways to take teaching and learning to the next level. We want to leverage lessons learned from an unexpected educational experience so that we can return to the classroom better than ever. In the Robertson Center’s latest webinar, three ed-veterans came together to reflect on the silver linings of teaching through a pandemic. All of us are beyond eager to be with students again in person, but, true to form, we’re also determined to take new best practices forward with us. We learned a lot together this past year, and we’re ready to make a better normal. Participants from across the country also came ready with their own learnings and recommendations — greatly appreciated! — and we’ve compiled some of the suggested tools and tips here. Thank you!

Below are some top takeaways from our own reflections and discussions: 

Maximizing Student-Driven Learning 

While most of us had already integrated technology into our classrooms in one way or another, this year pushed the digitization of the classroom to a whole new level. We were challenged to leverage technology in new ways to maximize student-driven learning as we remained apart. When office hours went digital, for example, we saw student motivation increase. Students might not want to stay after school for additional prep time, but joining a Zoom link for 15 minutes to make sure they’re ready for tomorrow’s test? Totally doable. 

Certain apps and platforms also lend themselves to student-driven learning, and we plan to continue thoughtfully leveraging our favorites. Students were able to take charge of their time management and assignments, see each other’s thinking processes in real-time, and keep track of their progress with the strategic use of key apps. 

Transforming Parent Engagement

We’ve always believed in the importance of partnering with parents. This year, families were able to gain new insights into their children’s schooling — seeing firsthand our school design in action. In some cases, this led to a deeper understanding of the expectations we set for students; parents saw the level of deep thinking and autonomy their children needed to be successful in class.

In addition to digital one-on-one meetings with parents (which made it much easier to fit into their busy schedules), we found that digitizing school events helped families engage in ways that they hadn’t in the past. Integrating online components going forward can allow busy families to stay connected and engaged with their children’s work — even if they can’t attend the art gallery or stage production in person. 

Prioritizing Accessibility for Social-Emotional Supports 

In many ways, the year allowed us to connect socially and emotionally with students and families in surprisingly meaningful ways. Seniors invited us “into their homes” to celebrate the moment they submitted their college applications, and we cheered alongside family members gathered around them. We established office hours as safe places for students to tell us when they were struggling. And we introduced teletherapy for our older students, so that professional support could be just a text message or video conference away. Going forward, we’ll continue building a strong community with our families, while prioritizing the accessibility and integration of social-emotional supports both inside and outside the classroom. 

For more insights from a year of teaching remotely, here is a reflection piece from Success Academy’s founder and CEO, Eva Moskowitz. 

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