Nothing, simply nothing, is normal! (There is not even, perhaps, a new normal.) We are learning to live with the radical unknown in our work and daily lives. Even as certain communities are “opening up” –we have no idea what the trajectory of these next weeks and months will be. And still, students are graduating, school years are completing, and educators around the country are struggling to create meaningful closure in a year when everything looks different than we imagined.
We also know that in addition to the universal effects COVID-19 is having, the impacts of the virus are exaggerating the already existing structural inequalities in our systems. We are seeing this with the schools in our networks in terms of access to curriculum, on-line learning, tech support, and even quiet private spaces to do online learning. In every way, Covid-19 continues to disproportionately impact communities of color and families living in poverty.
So, with all this change and challenge, what can we each do? To the best of our ability, we can continue to provide safe, meaningful, inclusive spaces for students to gather, share their experiences, and make connections to their communities.
Below are some tips or guidelines to consider for this COVID-19 era of schooling and for creating closure in the midst of unprecedented times:
- Consider how to create a grading system that does not privilege students who have unequal access to resources. Can you create a pass/fail option? Take-home tests or writing assignments with flexible deadlines?
- As you close out this school year, give students a chance to reflect on their year and name and honor what they’ve learned in school and also in this COVID-19 era.
- If students are graduating, consider meaningful ways to create closure with them. Have a community circle on line—where each student shares “highs” and “lows” from the year or something they want to let go from the year and an intention they have for the summer. Create an “I remember” experience, where students share specific positive memories from their year (this could be done verbally, but also in writing). Include a personal assessment, where students review their own learning journey and share something with you or the class about their growth. Create a wordle—and ask students to submit 3-5 words describing the last school year and display and refer to.
- If you have been intentionally building your classroom community or using an SEL or Equity curricula, consider how to take time to honor the work you’ve done together. If appropriate (if there is enough connection and trust), ask students to write down specific “appreciations” for two-three other students in their class. Structure this clearly, so there is a format they are following. Students can send these appreciations to you first, if you feel it would be best to edit or screen these.
- Send out a letter to all of the families you serve—acknowledging the transition and your feelings about this time and next year. Include some words of inspiration.
- Since students will not get to physically see you again, send a note or email or video or create some format to say “goodbye” and honor students’ contribution and participation in your class.
- Focus on 3-5 students you are most concerned about and create some strategies to support them as we close out the year.
- Normalize the full range of emotions that show up at this time (of graduation, COVID-19, end of the year) from joy to grief to boredom to confusion to relief.
- Reassure students about next year, while letting them know there are obvious unknowns.
- Take time for yourself to decompress and take care of your physical, mental, and emotional health.
- Invite a colleague to have a dyad/triad to debrief the year and share learnings.
- As you consider next year, consider ALL of your students. Do they have access to the on-line schooling resources and materials they need? If not, how can you and your school advocate for these students and families?
- Start thinking about how you can convert in-person courses to online formats
- As you think about next fall, consider taking on one social justice issue as it relates to inequalities in the school system —for example, how can you help address the issue of access to online curriculum? Or outreach to families?
- Breathe! Do what you can! Let the rest go!
And educators and leaders, thank you for your incredible service and for navigating unprecedented conditions in our world and educational system. Please let us know if we can support you in any way.
PassageWorks is now offering on-line versions of our trainings and workshops. Please contact us if you are interested.