Putting The Spotlight Back On Instruction

Teaching in the shadows of a pandemic.

Education as we knew it prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way teachers plan and deliver instruction. School districts were heavily focused on the health and safety of all stakeholders. It has been perfectly clear that safety was at the height of the pandemic and still is a top priority. Staying six feet a part, wearing a mask, sanitizing high touch areas, and washing your hands frequently was a common place for members of the teaching and learning community for the past two years. What was once considered a safe space, a place of refuge, has quickly morphed into a culture of fear and anxiety. Rightfully so, as COVID poses a danger to the health and well-being of faculty, staff, and students. Safe guarding against this virus is not to be taken lightly, nor should we become desensitized to the dangers of its deadly impact. However, it is equally important to place emphasis on protecting the learning environment and setting it up to promote instructional opportunities that are engaging and purposeful.

To regain ground in the learning community, instruction has to meet students where they are ready to learn. Instead of developing an attitude of "playing catch-up," educational leaders should spend more time supporting the emotional health and well-being of teachers. Repairing learning deficits in the midst of a pandemic has been very difficult for teachers to overcome. Empowering teachers to take part ownership in the process of change will strengthen efforts. Abruptly shifting gears can cause discontent and abandonment of new ideas. The inability to fill in the learning gaps that exist within students has become the number one stressor among educators.

Addressing learning deficits is a normal activity that teachers engage in on a regular basis, but the level at which it has risen is astonishing. Providing equitable instructional support for their students has posed a challenge. Students with learning deficits demand time and attention. This added layer of stress has caused a major down shift in their beliefs toward making a difference. It has been difficult for them to remain consistent in their approach to maintain a healthy outlook personally and professionally.

Leaders should recognize the need to establish a safe and inclusive culture that fosters hope and resilience to overcome obstacles presented in the learning environment. Creating a balance in the midst of perilous times must be intentional and reflects equity for all and relevance.

How to begin tackling this giant snowball effect?

  • Realize that the loss of instructional time cannot be recovered.

  • Make every face to face moment count. Restructure learning blocks to maximize time.

  • Ditch instructional practices and routines that do not yield a high return on investments.

  • Prioritize skills and concepts to be taught that will prepare students for the next level of learning.

  • Identify high yield instructional strategies that match cognitive processes and rigor of learning standards.

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of instruction and its impact on learning.

  • Assess, analyze data, track student performance, and provide timely feedback.

  • Make adjustments alone the way.

The instructional context matters and deserves the spotlight. The physical safety and well-being of schools’ culture and climate should remain a top priority. The educational rut we find ourselves in does not have to be a lasting reality. It does not define or limit the greatness that exists within us to transform the educational setting. We have to embrace the difficult times and develop a relevant culture that provides equitable learning experiences for all students.

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