2020 may go down in recent history as the worst case of the Mondays....EVER! I don't know about you, but I experienced long stretches of time that felt like Monday was repeating itself day after day and each of those days presented new and unexpected challenges. It seemed like just when things couldn't get worse...they somehow did. Eventually the "Mondays" turned into Blursdays...each day was so similar it was hard to tell which day of the week it actually was...
The good news is we survived...and as hard and frustrating and uncertain as 2020 has been, we learned A LOT. We learned a lot about ourselves, about teaching and learning, about wellbeing, about building partnerships with families, about clear communication, and we successfully increased our ability to effectively use technology.
How can we capitalize on our new learning? What do we understand now about teaching and learning that we didn't know a year ago at this time? What new knowledge have we gained? What skills have we developed? What are the dispositions that have been important for successful learning? How do we incorporate all of these new learnings into our practice?
As we begin 2021, take time to reflect with your colleagues and share what you have learned so we can build a collective knowledge base of strategies, insights and resources to continue to improve and refine best practices. There are several tools that can help facilitate this process.
Success Analysis Protocol: This protocol is designed to unpack your successes in a more deep and profound way than self-reflection. The process works best in groups of 3-4 people. Taking time to reflect, discuss, and build off of current successes helps teachers unpack the impact they have in the classroom and how they work together with colleagues. The success analysis protocol works well during faculty professional learning and, in my experience, highly impacts student learning through the sharing of successful strategies while serving to inspire teachers. To read more about how you might use this protocol with your faculty or on your leadership team, read "What's Working and How can we do More of it?"
Interviews: School Leaders, who are the teachers that thrived and innovated during 2020? What did they do to make learning effective and engaging for students? How did they communicate with families? What tools and platforms did they use? How did they find resources? How did they manage the multiple transitions from teaching in person to teaching online, transitioning to hybrid instruction and then navigating back to teaching in person or to teaching online (again)? Uncovering the answers to these questions will be critical for moving forward. We have so much to learn from these innovative and resilient teachers.
There are two tools in particular that can help you in this process. The first one is an interview process called, "Bright Spot Interviews." The purpose of these interviews is to: (1) surface keystone practices and (2) understand the journey the teachers have taken- what helped these teachers grow during these uncertain times and how can these practices inform our next steps? The second interview process is the Appreciative Inquiry Interview. The example I just linked is specific to "improvement groups" but you can easily adapt the questions as needed for your purpose. The interview will help you uncover high points, success factors, three wishes for moving forward and better understand the time needed by the teacher to experience his/her successes.
Action Research: In addition to taking time to uncover and celebrate successes from 2020 we also need to use these successes for future planning. We are no longer reacting and responding to uncertainty, we are living it. How do we intentionally learn our way forward? Engaging in action research is a purposeful way to learn and innovate. The tools of improvement science can help us do this successfully. What problems of practice are at the forefront of our work? How do we use what we have learned and continue to innovate and refine our practices? What ideas do we adopt, which ideas do we adapt and which ideas do we abandon because evidence shows they haven't worked?
In the article, "Getting Better Together," you can learn more about how improvement science uses just enough data to accelerate teacher learning, facilitate deep reflection, and guide further action. Feel free to contact me for a copy of the article or to learn more about how to launch action research in your school using the tools of improvement science.
Congratulations on surviving the worst case of the Mondays in recent history. As we move forward into 2021 lets put our best foot forward, use what we have learned and build off of our successes because there have been a lot of them!