It's hard to believe that a year ago this week, my husband and I returned from a trip to visit my family and went into lockdown for the first time.
At that time, the thought of staying at home for even two weeks straight sent my anxious brain into overdrive.
Now, it's been a year since we've been in a restaurant, a year since I've been to the gym, and a year since I've seen most of my friends. Somehow, we've made it through this year of change, fear, and loss.
On a more positive note, it's also been a year full of learning and growing as people and as educators.
In reflecting on this past year, here are the biggest takeaways that (I hope!) the education world has realized:
1. Families are critically important partners in the work of educating children.
In a recent teacher focus group, the challenges of connecting with families this year were their biggest concern.
No longer can we pretend that families and schools exist in separate planes.
Educators have seen just how important family engagement is for getting their own work done.
Teachers (and other critical school staff!) and families MUST be equal partners in the sometimes herculean task of educating children, especially those who come to school with a variety of needs and challenges.
2. Teachers and families both need to be commended for how well they adapted to educating children at home.
I am constantly in awe of teachers this year -- teaching is the hardest thing I've ever done, and I cannot imagine having to change basically every skill and strategy you've honed throughout your career in a flash. Their work was more challenging than ever during the pandemic, and in many cases, they put their health on the line to do the best they could for their kids.
Now, my dog is the only kid I've had to contend with this year (although he does make working from home challenging at times!). So I have great admiration for parents who have found ways to adapt their schedules, learn how to teach their children, and maintain positive, loving relationships in an unimaginable situation.
From the surveys and focus groups I've done over the past year, it's been clear how hard this has been for educators families, and both groups deserve our respect and gratitude now more than ever.
3. We can no longer rely on our memory or conversations with peers to know who we're reaching and who we're not.
I'm sure you anticipated this lesson ... but we MUST use data to drive our supports for children and families! Without kids and families in school buildings every day, a different approach was critical to figure out who was getting what they needed ... and who had barriers that the school should help families overcome.
I've gotten to work with a number of different schools, districts, and organizations on their use of data this year, so imagine my PURE JOY to hear that a staff member at one of these schools said that with the use of the data tracker we developed, "We are no longer guessing."
That's just it! We don't have to guess.
We can use simple, low- or no-cost strategies (Don't forget to download my free guide here!) to make sure we know EXACTLY what's happening with each of our kids.
No one's falling through the cracks on our watch.
By engaging families as equal partners, respecting the hard work that both educators and families contribute to the education of their kids, and by easily tracking how our families are engaging (sometimes more importantly, how we're trying to engage with them), we open up a new world of home-school collaboration and possibilities for success.
In the coming months, as we start to transition back to some semblance of normal life, I hope that we don't regress and forget all that we've learned this year.
I'm excited to find new ways to support educators and families in their journey towards more equitable, data-informed partnership.
I have a few things up my sleeve for 2021, so stay tuned!
Let's see how we can all continue to grow and learn together in this next phase of the year.
The goal of this blog is to highlight relevant issues that impact students, families, and communities and spark engaging discussions about how to address those issues through evaluation.