10 Silver Linings to Come from the Pandemic
It is true that the pandemic was global and has affected schools everywhere. Many have been affected by the public health crisis and the transition to and from home learning. Of course, our students’ learning has been impacted, alongside their social skills and connection with the school community.
For teachers, their wellbeing has taken a hit. The impact of lockdowns and the uncertainty as we return to school will likely leave us feeling more exhausted than ever before. In order to move through this time and grow, we must look to the silver linings that this experience has afforded us. This time provides us with an opportunity to come together and rethink education. We need to ask ourselves; how can we use this time as an opportunity to shine a light on the outdated and inflexible model of education that we have clung to for so long?
This article will explore:
- The silver linings post lockdowns
- Reminders about what really matters in education
- The importance of wellbeing
- How we can grow from this experience
It is very easy for us to focus on the challenges brought about by lockdowns, home learning, and now a return to on-site learning. However, there are many great lessons we can learn and gentle nudges in the right direction we can pay attention to. So, while the last two years have been frustrating, we can be optimistic and realistic about using these lessons to do better as we move forward.
10 silver linings post lockdown
1. Staff developed skills and knowledge they wouldn’t have normally used.
During this pandemic, teachers have had little choice but to throw themselves out of their comfort zone and rapidly adapt to a new online learning curriculum. In their 2020 study on lockdown teaching implications, Yong and Waterson (1) celebrated educators and their proactive response to the shifts to online lesson delivery. In the pandemic, ‘school leaders and teachers became responsible for two simultaneous methods of delivering learning: at school to students whose parents were essential workers or could not work from home, and remotely to the majority of students via online classes.’ (2). Many will agree that this time gave many teachers the well-needed nudge to adapt to our ever-evolving technology-filled world – a skill our future generations will need.
2. We were reminded that face-to-face and hands-on learning is highly effective.
While fluency in technology is an important skill, we saw that student engagement wavered over time as we moved to an online platform (particularly in the primary years). This time reminded many of the importance of connection, presence, facial expressions, hands-on tasks, and glitch-free communication between humans. We soon re-realised that humans are social creatures who learn by doing, interacting, and collaborating. Moving forward, we can take away that while in classrooms, students need more opportunities to work together to learn from and with each other to remain engaged in their learning.
3. We survived with a reduction in standardised testing.
Lockdowns meant that some testing was at a standstill. Across the world, most of the traditional regulations and exams that govern schools were lifted or minimally implemented. Traditional accountability examinations and many other high-stakes tests were cancelled, and schools were flexible with their delivery. Yong and Waterson (1) were quick to draw attention to how ‘education was given the room to rapidly adapt to the prevailing circumstances.’ This gives us hope that we can adapt and change and adjust how we have “always done things” and perhaps pave more ways for alternative forms of assessment and delivery.
4. Teachers and school staff were valued and celebrated publicly.
While many have never doubted the value of teachers, globally, we saw principals and teachers proactively respond to best meet their students’ learning and wellbeing needs. In Kidson et al.’s (2) paper “Co-designing educational policy: Professional voice and policy-making post-COVID”, they noted that in Australia, ‘parents and the community shared how deeply appreciative they were of the humility, innovation, expertise, and sacrifices of school leaders and teachers.’ Similarly, leaders learned how to make decisions quickly and hone in on communication with staff and the community. This experience and spotlight on schools awakened a healthy appreciation for the leadership of principals and teachers and the social community-sustaining role of schools. This recognition was, at times, what kept educators going. Ongoing appreciation softens the blow for at-risk staff who are on the brink of burnout.
5. We saw the value of wellbeing and connectedness.
The experience with the pandemic has solidified how ‘schooling’ is about so much more than learning. Across classes, teachers worked hard to support and prioritise the wellbeing and connectedness of their students and found ways to provide additional support and resources to parents (3). We saw school leaders, teachers, and support assistants go above and beyond to find ways to identify and support vulnerable families, discuss wellbeing and offer creative ways to engage the community. In addition to checking how families were coping in terms of basic food, health, and emotional needs, teachers saw providing support and advice for learning as a priority. We very quickly reflected on how important connection with community and discussions about learning is for our students and their families.
6. Staff wellbeing became a priority.
While we found ways to put student wellbeing first, our attention also shifted to staff wellbeing more than ever before. In studies from across the globe, many teachers commented that the pandemic had raised the school leadership’s awareness of adult wellbeing. Across the board, it was evident that more time was spent speaking with staff about how they were fairing in the pandemic climate. While everyone navigated a time of collective stress and trauma, a new revelation was brought to the fore. Schools and communities took notice of the burnout risk posed to teaching staff, and more measures were put in place to support and seek feedback from staff. Moving forward, it is wise to consider how we can do this as a core part of school business.
7. A new direction.
It is no secret that I think many approaches to leadership and school management overlook the fundamentals of what makes staff work well together, students shine and lead to the results we have long been chasing. Too often, we focus heavily on the instruction but not much on the functionality of our schools. This time has simply shown us what really matters. And while we may soon hopefully move out of crisis mode, I hope we will take with us some of the lessons learned on how to tend to the basic foundations of a successful school – our people.
8. People first, then pedagogy.
Many teachers and leaders will agree that our priority during lockdown was wellbeing. When parents were worried that their children were falling behind or disengaged, we reminded them that wellbeing and happiness came first. We gave permission for parents to spend a day outside or with family, in the kitchen, or exploring a new place – all the things that make our children feel happy, safe, and motivated. While schools are a place for learning, we can consider how to take care of our people or provide engaging and “real-life” learning opportunities that are relevant. Likewise, how can we better focus on helping our students get to a place where they are ready to learn?
9. We can change together.
Perhaps one of the most striking realisations to come out of this whole experience is how educators across the world collectively demonstrated that they could change en masse in their school, district, state, and country. This should give us hope that we can adapt our modes of operating, teaching, learning, and working collaboratively more efficiently than we ever have before.
10. We can truly reimagine education.
The changes and realisations that came about from this experience are not new, but they have certainly gained traction when we were placed in a position of having no other option. While this experience may not present again, it certainly does draw our attention to what truly matters in education and life.
As we transition back to a sense of normalcy, I encourage everyone to reflect on the many lessons that can be learned from this challenging time. Many of these lessons have shown us that we’re more resilient and adaptable than we had initially anticipated. But also, that the wellbeing of staff, students, and families is just as important as the curriculum.
Hopefully, these are lessons we can bring with us into the future to create school environments that prioritise wellbeing as a means to continued success.
If you’re ready to support your staff during this challenging time, I can help facilitate the process through my school wellbeing consulting services. Book a discovery call today to learn how I can help set your school up for long-lasting success!
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