A student in Cara Pilch’s 5th grade class at Granville Elementary School in Granville, NY.

A student in Cara Pilch’s 5th grade class at Granville Elementary School in Granville, NY.  Photo by Andrew Watson.

On the Rebound

4 strategies for bouncing back from COVID.

We’ve lost a lot during the pandemic and students in the poorest school districts have lost the most.

Unfortunately, recovery is not going to be as easy as getting back to school and getting “back to normal,” because the old normal does not accelerate learning, repair trauma or fix inequities. Instead of trying to go backward, many education experts are advocating for a shift in the way we think about education in the wake of COVID-19 and urging teachers to move forward.

“Don’t focus on the past,” said Patti Siano, a member of the Corinth Central Teachers Association and instructor with NYSUT’s Education and Learning Trust. “We have to move forward and focus on differentiation and connecting with our students.” Siano teaches “Rebound: Rebuilding Agency, Accelerating Learning Recovery, and Rethinking our K-12 Schools.”

Here, she provides some strategies for tapping into the inherent energy of a rebound to achieve maximum impact:

1 - Prioritize power standards.

Face it, not all information is equally important. Instead of teaching all standards with the same intensity — the equivalent of a mile wide and an inch deep — spend most of the time on the material that is most vital. “Shift your mindset and determine what’s essential for this year,” Siano said. Those are your “power standards,” she said. Usually, power standards consist of material foundational to the student’s upcoming year and material required by the Regents, she said.  

2 - Implement regular assessments.

Use consistent assessments to monitor students’ progress and use data from those assessments to differentiate teaching. Instead of instructing all students based on the gaps of some, use assessments to find out what they know and determine what comes next. “We have to dial into each student’s needs and their learning style,” said Siano.

3 - Home life matters.

It is imperative that teachers know what is going on in students’ lives, both in and out of school. Poverty, addiction, absent parents and other traumas impact a student’s ability to learn and grow. While these are not new problems, they are more widespread in the wake of COVID-19, and teachers need to pay attention to the cues students are giving them and respond accordingly, Siano said.  

4 - Self-care is student care.

Make sure your own physical and emotional needs are being met. Conduct regular self-assessments: Are you getting enough sleep? Enough to eat? Are you feeling isolated? Talk with colleagues about the importance of self-care, too. Remember, a teacher’s own mental health is going to determine how effective that educator is. “We have to be gentle and kind to ourselves” Siano said. “It impacts how you teach.”

ELT coursework is offered year-round and can be used for undergraduate, graduate and in-service credit as well as to fulfill Continuing Teacher and Leader Education requirements. For more information, go to elt.nysut.org.