Key Considerations for Educators During Pandemic Teaching

Steven WeberBlog, Grade Better, Lead Better


  • Key considerations for educators during pandemic teaching include grading and reporting, connectivity, and ‘Profile of a Graduate.’
  • The pandemic provides educators with the opportunity to reflect on the purpose of a grade.
  • Connectivity should be considered because every student has a right to learn.
  • Having a clear vision of the type of learners we want to produce will support the future of teaching and learning.

Life has changed dramatically for students.  The foundation of education is learning, and as a learning organization, educators have paused to reflect on the impact COVID-19 will have on the future of schooling.  Attendance issues, connectivity, and student fatigue are among the multiple factors that are part of school in 2020.  Teachers have rallied to meet the needs of learners during this unprecedented time.  In some school districts, teachers are teaching virtual students and face-to-face students.  In other districts, schools have been closed for on-site instruction since March.

Some of the most innovative teachers have expressed that they are exhausted and that this pace cannot be kept for much longer.  Some families echo this sentiment, as parents continue to work from home while supporting their children with school.  “Strong leaders quickly get comfortable with widespread ambiguity & chaos, recognizing that they do not have a crisis playbook. Instead, they commit themselves & their followers to navigating point-to-point through the turbulence, adjusting, improvising, and redirecting” (Kohen, 2020).  As teachers continue to face turbulent times, there are three key considerations for school staff.  While these may not be the only ones, the key considerations for the future of schooling will depend on the professional conversations between teachers, administrators, and stakeholders.

Key Considerations for Educators: Grading and Reporting

When schools were closed for on-site instruction, it became evident that grading and reporting were not consistent in several schools.  Teachers began to ask, “Should homework count as a grade?”  Teachers recognized that several students did not have the same resources at home and this impacted student understanding.  Students who had connectivity issues, missed class for a doctor’s appointment, or fell behind late in the school year were often penalized by the grading system.

As students returned to school, some schools offered multiple options such as virtual only, hybrid (2 days at school and 3 days virtual), or five days at school (on-site instruction).  The topic of grading was once again a point of conversation in schools.  Teacher teams struggled to define late work.  Should we give the students partial credit or an extended timeline?  Should we provide a lower grade if the student demonstrates mastery by the end of the quarter?

What should every student know and be able to do? How can we prepare students for life in a rapidly changing world? Having a clear vision of the type of learners we want to produce will support the future of teaching and learning. Click To Tweet

For years, teachers and administrators have debated grading and reporting.

Some schools have transitioned to standards-based grading.  Competency-based grading has been successful in several school districts.  Grading on the A-F system is about as American as apple pie and Friday night football.  While several authors, educators, parents, and students have challenged the A-F grading system, this is still the board approved system in a majority of school districts.

As we navigate teaching and learning in 2020, the pandemic provides educators with the opportunity to reflect on the purpose of a grade.  If the purpose of a grade is to motivate students to learn or try harder, then this theory was turned upside down during the pandemic.  Educators have multiple concerns regarding grading and how grades are randomly assigned to students.  This may be a point in history where we look back and point to COVID era teaching and learning as the tipping point in the grading debate.  What questions are you asking about the grading system and its purpose?

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Key Considerations for Educators: Connectivity

Prior to school closings, several school districts took pride in 1:1 classrooms, blended learning, and homework assignments that involved technology.  While most educators agree that technology integration is important, COVID era teaching has highlighted the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’

If giving one hundred percent of the students a device is considered leveling the playing field, then connectivity must be equivalent to the Grand Canyon.  Teachers quickly learned which students could not participate in a class meeting or academic support via video.  When teachers assigned a group assignment in Google Classroom or other tools, it became evident which students could not participate in group assignments outside of the brick and mortar classroom.  Connectivity may not have been previously considered in some school districts because teachers were assigning homework and group assignments prior to the closing of schools.

As teachers reflected on equity issues that students faced, connectivity became one of the number one concerns.

Teachers are willing to bring clothes or school supplies to school for students.  They have been known to provide students with money for a field trip or purchase a meal for students.  The bottom line is teachers can do quite a bit for students when they see them in person.  The connectivity issue created a barrier that was difficult for several teachers and administrators to address.  While some school districts were able to purchase hot spots for students, other districts did not have the same funding.  In rural communities, thousands of students fell behind peers in the same grade level.

The barrier was not a highly qualified teacher or a neighborhood school.  The barrier was ‘opportunity to learn’ and access to a highly qualified teacher.  Some researchers and educators have used the term ‘COVID Slide’ to refer to learning loss and achievement gaps that were created between March – October.  The opportunity gap is a more accurate description of the disruption that took place when students could not attend class or complete online assignments.  While this period in education is unprecedented, schools need the support of community leaders, state government, and federal funding.

Schools will eventually reopen, but the digital divide that exists will continue to hurt students.  Educators need to begin sharing the story of how connectivity supports student understanding.  If a democracy guarantees the right to learn in a public school, the right to learn may need to be expanded to connectivity and anytime learning.  Our students deserve to have equitable access to resources that support their growth and achievement.  Opportunity to learn should not be defined by your family income or the neighborhood you live in.

Key Considerations for Educators: Profile of a Graduate

In recent years, several school districts have developed committees who designed the ‘Profile of a Graduate.’  Parents, students, and teachers often identify skills, traits, and goals such as being responsible, innovative, a critical thinker, a lifelong learner, and a problem solver.  The recent pandemic has caused parents and educators to reflect on what matters most in education.  Are we teaching students to love math or English or are there specific employability skills that every student should be exposed to between kindergarten and graduation?

The pandemic has caused schools, restaurants, businesses, sporting events, and community events to pause.  During this time, educators have reflected on the needs of each learner.  Social and emotional learning has been discussed more than in recent years.  Personalized learning was gaining popularity in schools before the pandemic.  As schools reopened in the fall, personalized learning became more than a buzz word.  Teachers began identifying priority standards, reviewing key skills from the previous year, and doubling down on soft skills.  The things that we may have valued in the pacing guide or our favorite unit may have been revised in order to meet the needs of each learner.

School districts with a ‘Profile of a Graduate’ can begin by reviewing their existing goals.

School districts or schools that have not started this conversation can begin by reflecting on the priorities identified by teacher teams.  Has the purpose of education changed?  What should every student know and be able to do?  How can we prepare students for life in a rapidly changing world?  Having a clear vision of the type of learners we want to produce will support the future of teaching and learning.  During these uncertain times, it may be hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  School staff should reflect on the goals of education and the strategies for equipping each learner.

Koehn, N. (2020). Real Leaders Are Forged In Crisis. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from

About Steven Weber

Dr. Steven Weber is the Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Fayetteville Public Schools (AR). His areas of research include curriculum design, formative assessment, professional learning, and school leadership.