Planning for Uncertainty: 5 Steps To Open the School Year Successfully in the Pandemic
Many of us had hoped, maybe even dreamed, that the COVID-19 Pandemic would be behind us. In fact, early indicators during the summer pointed to a new, refreshing look at the 21-22 school year. Having worked tirelessly since the pandemic began in March of 2020, educators have been exhausted and seemed poised for a return to some sort of normal in the fall. However, recent spike's in the positive COVID-19 cases, and fear of a 3rd wave of the pandemic have required educators to pause. Unfortunately, most of the regulations and policies are out of our hands. What we can control, however, is how we react to those policies, restrictions, and guidelines.
Here are 5 steps that will help educators open the school year successfully:
- Be as transparent as possible - There are many opposing sides to this issue and without getting political, it is important to know where folks stand with the issues of mask-wearing, social distancing, and travel. As educators, it is our job to stay neutral and develop a plan that is best for the students and staff. With that said, when you send your message out to the community, be as open as possible and be prepared for debate.
- Empathize with your staff and students - It is easy for people to put plans in place and then have others implement them. For those of us who are in school, there are various stages of acceptance with the pandemic. As a school leader, it is important to remember that you are dealing with people. Listen to concerns, assure everyone that you are doing your best, and be honest.
- Climate and Culture Plan - How will you adapt your Climate and Culture Plan to ensure that not only are you making the building safe, but also creating shared experiences, lasting memories, and pride in your school. No matter what the restrictions will or won't be at your school, it is crucial to continue honoring the hard work of your staff and students.
- Create Space - Have you examined the impact that the pandemic has had on people? Everyone, in some form or fashion, has been impacted and it is important for school leaders to create space. I suggest making outdoor classrooms, mask breaks and even impromptu lessons to be conducted outside.
- Take time to fill your own cup - The old adage goes, "You have to help yourself before you can help others." This rings true as school leaders across the country will soon be burning the midnight oil to make everyone safe. If you are not taking care of yourself, however, you will be of little help to others. Be sure to develop healthy habits that can allow you to do something besides check Email and research pandemic numbers.
If you can integrate these 5 steps into your re-opening plan, you will be on the track for a positive school year no matter what obstacles are thrown your way. Nothing is ever going to be full proof. As I mentioned earlier, there are people on all sides of this and you have to be aware of the implications at your school. In addition, you need to empathize with parents who sacrificed a great deal to allow us to implement hybrid and virtual instruction. Although they may have gained a sense of respect for teachers and educators through that experience, many need to return to work. They want their students to be back in person with all the supports and interventions that come along with that.
Remember, it is not what happens to you in life that matters, but rather how you react.
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