How the pandemic is STILL affecting educators in 2021

The start to the 2021 school year has been like no other, said educators to K12LEADERS

In a webinar by education industry professional development group K-12LEADERS, six educators reflected on the opening of schools for the 2021 school year and strategies to priority critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity in an educational system still in the grips of a worldwide pandemic.

The session, sponsored by Edsby, was titled “Lessons learned… and abandoned: What’s working for education today?” and featured:

  • Dr. Neil Gupta, District Leader, ASCD Board Member, @drneilgupta
  • Christine Ravesi-Weinstein-Weinstein, School Leader and Mental Health Advocate, @RavesiWeinstein
  • Dr. Matthew X. Joseph, District Leader, @MatthewXJoseph
  • Dr. Keri Orange-Jones, Educator/Author, @DrKCOrange
  • Dr. Adam A. Phyall, III, Director of Technology, Newton County School System, @AskAdam3
  • Kristen Nan, Educator/Author, @nankr1120

“The most trying return to school we’ve ever experienced”

Christine Ravesi-Weinstein said this has been a very challenging return to school for kids in terms of behavior. However, compared to other years, children are vocalizing their need for counseling and assistance instead of acting out, allowing adults to find solutions as educators and involve parents as much as possible.

“This was without a doubt the most trying return to school we’ve ever experienced. The amount of discipline issues we were dealing with were intense. Large discipline issues: vandalism, violence, threats. This was not something we were prepared for. The number of students that are in dire need of counselling and assistance is off the charts. The only positive is that the number of students vocalizing their need for assistance is also a lot higher.”

-Christine Ravesi-Weinstein, Assistant Principal

Dr. Keri Orange-Jones said she focuses on the social and art aspect of education, encouraging drawing as a way for children to express their feelings freely and reconnect with socialization among peers.

For Kristen Nan, communication and involvement of families is essential. Incorporating emotional support and allowing vulnerability was missing in education before, and now it’s clear that it’s necessary.

Dr. Neil Gupta, District Leader and ASCD Board Member, said his year’s focus was to connect with kids emotionally, and encourage them to be “curious not furious.”

Parents benefiting from K-12 technology digital transformation acceleration

Technology also shifted education as we know it. For Dr. Adam A. Phyall III of Newton County School System, it’s changed for the better in many respects. New technology has empowered students to act independently and parents to be more involved than ever.

“I challenge anyone to tell me that we are not more connected with our parents now. I’ve taught and worked in title 1 districts my entire career, where parents couldn’t always show up for conferences because they had jobs where, if they don’t work, they don’t get paid. If you get two 15 minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch, a platform like Zoom allows that parent to now to have a quick conference with a teacher!”

-Dr. Adam A. Phyall, III, Director of Technology, Newton County School System

For Dr. Keri Orange, the pandemic’s acceleration of technology has its pros and cons. Students are more independent and can access information quickly, but there’s always the need for face-to-face socialization. It has surfaced the need for empathy, leading to solidifying the idea of working together for children and bringing community to the forefront of education.

Overall, the leaders acknowledged there has been a shift. And moving forward, the focus needed to stay on learning as a community activity. Gupta recalled the African proverb: “If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The above conversation was sponsored by Edsby. The award-winning Edsby social learning environment has been putting the connections between people, not just documents, at the center of K-12 education around the world for more than 10 years. School districts, states, provinces and countries adopt Edsby for student well-being, learning management, assessment & reporting and analytics. Learn more about how Edsby at edsby.com.