Preparation for What Comes Next

It is a stressful time for everyone.  COVID-19 cases are increasing in many places, and social distancing measures are being extended. Through it all, there is anxiety and fear as it pertains to what comes next. Will kids go back to school or continue to learn remotely? How will safety be ensured for all people in a building? What will be the impact of budget cuts? How will educators get the professional learning support they so desperately need? These are just a few of the questions being pondered, where there are no clear or definitive answers.  The result has been unprecedented stress on anyone associated directly, or indirectly, with education.

Every day it seems a curveball is being thrown at educators.  One minute, schools are being given guidance to open up for face-to-face instruction, and the next, they inform the masses that they are starting the school year with remote learning. What comes next remains a mystery for some. Strong leadership in times of uncertainty is critical to not only get by but also set the stage for success.  For those who have more clarity, the time is now to ensure needed pedagogical change takes hold. Lessons learned since the start of the pandemic can pave the way to create a new normal.

To adequately prepare, schools should consider focusing their efforts and resources on the following three areas:

  1. Hybrid Learning Models: Hybrid learning combines both traditional and non-traditional learning strategies as well as digital tools to create a cohesive learning experience for kids.  Some key aspects to consider are face-to-face instruction, personalization, blended learning, adaptive tools, flex schedules, social distancing, health and safety, and remote learning. For more context, check out this post.
  2. Remote Learning: If schools are closed for any amount of time, it is critical to improve remote learning based on some of the challenges that were experienced in the past.  It focuses on both digital and non-digital pathways to keep realistic learning going. Now is the time to help educators hone their craft, so students are authentically engaged, empowered to think, provided meaningful feedback, and are able to showcase what they have learned creatively.  HERE you can find some specific teaching tips. For a variety of strategies and perspectives, check out this Pinterest Board.
  3. Blended Pedagogies – Prior to the pandemic, many schools implemented instructional strategies that incorporated digital but did not fully make the pivot to blended learning. There is a difference. Blended instruction is what the teacher does with technology. Blended learning is where students use technology to have control over path, place, and pace. Other high agency strategies, such as voice and choice, are also prevalent to personalize learning. Data is used to differentiate as well as group and regroup students on an ongoing basis to meet the needs of everyone best. Station rotation, choice boards, playlists, and the flipped classroom are the most practical pathways to implement. The use of digital tools becomes a seamless component. All kids doing the same thing at the same time the same way has to become a thing of the past.

In addition to the areas listed above, social and emotional learning (SEL) will need to be emphasized as a key component of what comes next. No one knows for sure what some kids experienced during the extended time schools were closed and the impact that this has had on them. My colleagues Venola Mason and Weston Kieschnick facilitated a webinar with me that dove into all of the focus areas identified in the post. You can view the 30-minute recording below.


Preparing for what comes next will take meticulous planning, flexibility, resolve, and bold leadership. Purchasing devices and mobile hotspots is great, but it doesn’t go far enough. It will also require research-based, evidence-driven professional learning, and provides educators with practical strategies that can be implemented right away. Teachers and administrators deserve needed support to usher in a new normal. Many are crying out for it now. Not the one and done or drive-by variety, but job-embedded, ongoing, and immersive experiences. One of the main lessons learned at the onset of the pandemic was how the majority of schools were ill-prepared for remote learning and the same can be said in terms of what lies ahead. The path ahead might not be crystal clear, but we do have a general sense of the direction schools should take both in the near and long-term. Invest in people now and reap the rewards later.

To learn more about what this could look like in your district or school, shoot me an email (esheninger@leaderd.com).