- It is important to maintain a positive mindset when preparing for the unknown.
- Preparation breeds protection, security, and safety. Just as we prepare for the threat of inclement weather, we should prepare for the possibility of sudden school closures.
- Create classroom routines and communicate with parents regularly to maintain an environment of reliability.
Just when we thought we had made it through the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and began to reinstate all the things we had given up/postponed over the past year and a half…
Those of us in education realized that our work was just beginning. The end of the school year marked a continued cycle of learning that would continue during what is usually time spent resting and recharging for the upcoming year. Each day, teachers and administrators have been working to maintain a growth mindset when the much-needed mental break they have been programmed to expect has either been cut short or likely not occurred at all.
What is your process for maintaining your mindset when preparing for the unknown?
As I write this month’s blog. There are so many questions running through my mind…
- When will I take time to pause, stop, and reassess what I need so that I am able to take care of others?
- What will students need to help them process the unpredictability of the past year and a half?
- What processes will be needed when all students return to the regular school setting?
Well, as my question list grows, here’s my process when preparing for the unpredictable. Hopefully, it will help you get started.
Time and Learning
Despite what many people think, students were still learning at home. Now this was not our idea of an ideal teaching and learning environment, but teachers, like you, did some amazing work each day. I have never been a fan of the term “learning loss.” I don’t believe you can lose things that you truly learned. Maybe we should think of it as less learning or simply say our students need more time.I have never been a fan of the term “learning loss.” I don’t believe you can lose things that you truly learned. Maybe we should think of it as less learning or simply say our students need more time. Click To Tweet
The Center for Disease Control notes this trauma, such as what we all experienced during the pandemic, had the capability of producing fear, anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed. These types of reactions resulted in difficulty concentrating, as well as many more physical, chronic, and mental health conditions.
As adults, many of us are used to coping with stressors in our lives. Our children have not had these experiences. Without the proper support, many coped the best way they knew how. They shut down and controlled what they could. Just think about it. What was the one thing students had control of? You guessed it. Logging into and remaining in class each day.
I never would have predicted adding multiple responsibilities to my already “full plate,” but an interesting curveball was thrown at me six weeks ago. I was finally in the home stretch of what had been the busiest and most productive years that I have had in a while. Imagine counting down and looking forward to a much-needed break, the thought of having a week of vacation to use to rest, rejuvenate, and recharge while spending time with family.
Well, sometimes new responsibilities come when you least expect them and that’s exactly what happened. In the span of ten days, I received a promotion. Suddenly after working to support principals for thirteen years, I was granted the awesome responsibility to sit in the seat as a principal. This unexpected opportunity is indescribable.
The best way that I can explain what transpired is with this quote: “With great power comes great responsibility.” The list of new responsibilities that I have now is endless. Over the years, I have prided myself on being able to effectively and efficiently manage any responsibilities that have been entrusted to me.
Well, all I can tell you as of today is that there is a huge difference between supporting the leader and being the leader. This endeavor will take a tremendous amount of mindset intentionality. Mindset intentionality involves routinely finding time to reflect on the positives and determine the lessons learned when things don’t go as planned. This shift in mindset must include remembering that although I am striving for perfection, my goal should always be to get better and better with each passing day.
Post-pandemic times and a return to normalcy is what we all seek. As we look at the peaks and valleys that COVID-19 has taken us through, we were all wishing the vaccines would be the cure-all we were seeking. As the Delta variant rages on, re-entry into the in-person school setting may not go as smoothly as we hope. There will likely be insurmountable obstacles that we can only imagine. Re-entry protocols and procedures may change like the wind. How will we mentally prepare ourselves, our parents, our students, and our own families for this unknown?
First, I suggest pausing and taking stock of what we have learned so far. The most important lesson I can share is that preparation breeds protection, security, and safety for all involved. Just like we prepare for the threat of inclement weather, we should prepare for the possibility of sudden school closures. What will your procedures look like? Schools should have drills—regular time set aside to practice while schools are still open.
Once incorporated, everyone’s mindset will shift. Think about it. We know that tornadoes, snow, and many other unpredictable unknowns could occur, but rarely do we feel traumatized when told that we are under a watch for any of these things. Why? Because we have systems, procedures, and protocols to follow. Imagine the transformation that could occur if we add pandemic protocols to this category.
Everyone needs to feel seen, heard, valued, and deeply known. Relationships are vital in any setting. All educators should spend time getting to know their students, parents, and colleagues. The established connections could curb unruly and unpredictable behavior and keep them from escalating. Never forget that connections create calm where a lack thereof provides fuel to increase the flames exponentially.
How will you build relationships with all stakeholders? What processes are in place to help your students build relationships with each other? When you have the right kind of relationship with students, nothing will keep them from coming to your class, even if it might have to occur virtually.[scroll down to keep reading]
Webster defines reliable as suitable or fit to be relied on or dependable. What systems and processes can you—or will you—include to increase the reliability in your classroom? Now more than ever, we all want consistency. No one likes instability. Our natural inclination in times of instability is to seek a way to create stability. If we want to bring out the best in our students, we must work to create reliability throughout the day.
Here are a couple of suggested methods for creating reliability.
- Post the agenda/routines for the day so that students know when, where, and how things will occur.
- Create a method for regularly communicating with parents. This should include a two-way system for parents to contact you and keep you informed.
Maintaining a Positive Mindset: Move Slow to Go Fast
As we continue to prepare for the unknown, you will need to resist the urge to rush the process. Remember to celebrate small successes along the way. As with any change, there will likely be many missteps as we are working to reacclimate many of our students to school within brick-and-mortar buildings. Don’t expect perfection! Many students have been learning in spaces that look nothing like your classroom for almost two years. Look at each day as a new opportunity to practice and move closer to perfection.
After all, that’s what having a growth mindset is…learning, growing, and knowing that you haven’t achieved what you are seeking yet. “Yet” is an immensely powerful word and the key to maintaining a positive mindset when preparing for the unknown. We have all overcome so much as of late and this will be no different. Slow and steady…You’ve got this!!
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Coping with Stress.
Ditko, Amazing Fantasy No. 15: “Spider- Man,” p. 13 (1962) (“[I]n this world, with great power there must also come—great responsibility”).
“Reliability.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reliability. Accessed 28 Jul.
About Jami Fowler-White
Jami Fowler-White is the founder and CEO of Digital PD 4 You, LLC and co-creator of the Ignite Leadership Summit. Over the past two decades, she has served in many capacities in education which include ten years as a classroom teacher, ten years as an Instructional Coach, and a Core Advocate with Achieve the Core.
She currently mentors First-time and Renewal candidates for the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and is a charter member of the National Board Network of Minoritized Educators and Black Women Education Leaders, Incorporated. Additionally, Mrs. Fowler-White is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and is currently serving as a Principal in Shelby County Schools (TN).
Fowler-White also provides professional development under the umbrella of the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and Digital PD 4 You for schools and districts. She is the author/coauthor of several books including, Educator Reflection Tips, Volume #1, EduMatch’s Snapshot in Education 2020: Remote Learning Edition, The Skin You are In: Colorism in the Black Community, 2nd Edition, and Educator Reflection Tips, Volume II: Refining our Practice. Jami blogs at DigitalPD4You.com , has a bi-monthly leadership blog on Insight Advance, and writes a monthly blog entitled the Better Mindset on TeachBetter.com. She invites you to connect with her on Twitter at @JjJj821 and on the Digital PD 4 You Facebook page.