If the pandemic disappeared tonight and all your students could come to class tomorrow, would you teach differently than you did pre-COVID? Would your school offer opportunities it hadn’t before?

I hope the answer is yes. We have all struggled through much more than learning to share our screens on Zoom over the past year, and it’s a depressing thought that we wouldn’t have something new for reaching the next student.

So many things have come into sharp relief:

We’ve learned that incentives matter. When some districts told students in March of 2020 that their grades couldn’t get any worse than at that point, no matter what they did, many students stopped worrying about school completely. This apparently surprised some people.

We’ve learned that working toward equity is hard work for everyone. If a student doesn’t have a device or an internet connection, we don’t throw up our hands and effectively tell everyone school is canceled; we figure out how to get something in the child’s hands that can keep that child from disappearing from our radars.

We’ve learned that what matters to individual students is key to engaging them. This has always been the case, though we’ve too often hidden behind a wall of “standardization” instead of going to the trouble of crafting something inspiring.

We’ve learned that while many students struggle with learning online, others may be thriving for the first time. Asking why lets us point to what we may need to make changes, as well as be reminded why the effort is worth it.

We’ve learned that however far we are into our teaching careers, we can always learn something new. If we’re comfortable sharing ideas with colleagues, we’ve probably also learned that we can bring strengths we’ve developed over years or decades to new systems.

We’ve learned that we have a far greater reach for messages to inspire students than we may have known. Why shouldn’t you have someone in another part of the world talk to your class?

Take the strengths from what you did before COVID and combine them with what you’ve learned since. You’ll end up with much more than more effective teaching.

Done as a team, you’ll end up with something very important for your school in the near term: relevance.

Given that learning online is possible, and even dynamic when done well, schools will soon find that someone in another part of the state, province, country, or planet can create a school that might be more appealing to their students than yours.

At the moment, your school has what is hopefully the advantage of familiarity and community connection.

For how long, though, will you be able to use that familiarity to keep families from choosing schools that offer something new and different?

Join Rushton on Thursday, March 18th at 8:00pm PST for his session “A Look at Your School, Post-COVID: Relevant?” Register for Virtual Spring CUE today at cue.org/spring!

Rushton Hurley is an educator who believes this is a great time to teach. In his work, he has taught Japanese language, been principal of an online school, directed a professional development program, and succeeded as a social benefit entrepreneur.

About Kristin Oropeza
Kristin is a full-time special education teacher, contract consultant, and educational content writer. She is a Google Certified Teacher (Level 1 and 2), Google Certified Trainer, and MIE Expert for 2020-2021.