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Reflecting on a chaotic year: Lessons learned

Jack Hesser is an ISTA Early Leadership Institute coach and teaches middle school science at Harshman Middle School in Indianapolis. He serves as a grade-level team leader and hosts the podcast, Spillin’ the T on Leadership.

Hesser shares his reflections on the 2020 – 21 school year – it’s challenges, successes and lessons.

Pandemic learning has made many of us feel like first-year teachers again. The process of creating virtual learning experiences, facilitating hybrid instruction and trouble-shooting the myriad of tech problems, has presented a lot of frustrations. Amongst the many challenges of this past year, these are some of my key reflections.

Prioritize celebration over frustration. Early on in the pandemic learning process, I spent a lot of my time and energy focusing on what wasn’t working. Finding solutions to problems is important, but I was spending so much time being frustrated I was losing focus on what really mattered – my students. Intentionally spending time each day to celebrate my students helped me shift my focus away from things that I had no control over.

Family partnerships are more critical than ever. My school adopted a caseload model this year to help keep families more in the loop. Unlike in past years where information was a one-way stream from me to families, this has allowed me to develop more meaningful relationships with the families. Given how much change happens weekly, this partnership has been instrumental.

Change is on the horizon. As our gaze shifts toward fall – and what a less chaotic school year might look like – it’s up to all of us to decide what the new normal is. We can’t go back to the way things were knowing how much wasn’t working in that system. As teachers, we must advocate for a more equitable vision of public education. This is an opportunity to redefine the role of standardized testing, provide schools with the resources they need and ensure quality working conditions. Together, with our students, their families and our communities we can create an education system that works for everyone. If we don’t, someone else will recreate it for us.