As summer winds toward fall and we consider the annual return to school for students, families and staff, it occurs to me that we are possibly at the precipice of our first undisrupted year of in-person learning since 2019. While it now appears that COVID-19 will be with us as part of “life on earth” going forward, with the availability of vaccinations and treatment protocols, we have been able to make the threat of this virus much less than where we were when all this started.
There is no doubt that our students missed out on so much due to the pandemic. From quality in-person experiences to academic growth, we have work to do.
I fully expect that when our state assessment results are released this fall, they will show that we have made strong positive gains over the previous year. I also expect them to show that we still have a long way to go in fully recovering from the disruptions to learning that took place during the pandemic.
It will be an exercise in patience and persistence for all of us as we settle in for a long-haul of engagement and working with our students to move them toward recovery. Everyone – including families, students and school staff – will need to recommit to learning.
For families, this means supporting your students with the time and encouragement necessary for them to simultaneously catch up and thrive for these next few challenging years. Again, we should not expect that the disruption of COVID-19 will be mitigated in the short-term. Parents and family members should consider how they can best be a support to their learner at home and to the school staff working with their student.
For students, the next few years are going to be brisk in terms of the pace, content covered and intensity. There are many supports, resources and new programs in place to support our learners as a result of the infusion of COVID-19 relief dollars. Students should find ways to take advantage of these to support their learning.
While students in school today have lived through the greatest disruption to learning in our history, they also now have the greatest level of support and resources available to them. While all of our students have faced significant challenges over the past couple of years, it also presents an incredible opportunity.
For school staff, now is the time to recommit to the profession and to reconnect with the reasons why you became educators in the first place. Most educators I know entered the profession to help students, to be part of something bigger than just yourself and to have a positive impact and connection on the future. Like no other time in our history, educators have the opportunity to do just that in the next couple of years ahead.
So, while we have an unprecedented challenge and so much work in front of us, we must not become overwhelmed. We must also balance out the prospect of that challenge with the recognition that we also have unprecedented opportunities and resources. As we head into this new school year, I urge all of us to take full advantage of this opportunity we have before us.