I met with a new WOL teacher last week. She is worried about doing well and meeting the students’ needs. She is also thinking about checking our ‘boxes’ regarding live instruction, student engagement, grading. Not to mention, getting her own kids on the bus and coordinating home learning when they are not in school. The list could go on. It does for so many people.

I thought of her as I sat in a meeting, and it was as if a light bulb turned on.

The conversation went from Mandates, Standardized Tests, Standardized Curriculum, Educator Effectiveness, Root Cause.

I recalled our conversation. This is why she worries and so many teachers are frustrated. Often, the focus in schools is not about learning. The conversations are not about how are the kids. Or how are the teachers (and all the staff) doing?

I found myself zoning out. Let’s be fair -sometimes it feels like there should be a quick and easy fix. New tools, new leaders, new ideas. Get everything in order. Have a plan. Strategize for success! The push from outside to ‘fix’ schools. Truly, the silver bullets suggested are not fixing anything!

And I drift back to our new teacher. Making connections take time. I have to put in the time with the teacher. What happens when we turn the conversation to – how are kids are doing? We can sort through the priorities, lift some of the load. Can we make time to let teachers connect with other teachers? A few minutes to know they are not alone. The test scores don’t add up to an effective teacher. The standardized curriculum haunts us all (and the virtual space), and it can rob both teachers and learners of their curiosity.

I return over and over to the connections. At the WOL our focus is on building the relationship. Sometimes it’s via zoom, other times in chat, text, or messages. Other times it looks like feedback on assignments. I think the positive bond is what most people who are working in schools, with students, in these very unique times want and need. So talking about standards, mandates, etc. seems superfluous – and when we do feel connected, linked, cared for, then maybe we can start thinking beyond day-to-day survival.

Normal is undefinable these days. Making it until dinner is a feat worthy of a gold medal. We are all somewhere on the spectrum of trying to reach the finish line each day and do our best to create a positive environment for learning.

How are you helping your crew to the finish line?

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