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Lessons Learned

Soon after the pandemic hit the world in the spring of 2020, there were plenty of voices of wisdom encouraging us that change could be good. That people and systems on a whole had a rich opportunity to take a step back and evaluate what's been working, what hasn't, and determine how they want to move forward. Now that we're emerging from the storm, I'm wondering how school leaders have evaluated what worked and didn't work prior to the shift of virtual learning. And how can those lessons be on the minds of decision makers as they prepare to welcome all students back to school buildings in the fall?

During a virtual training I was giving several months ago, a behavior specialist asked me, "Did we just transfer everything that wasn't working at a desk to a screen?"I paused. Perhaps. Honestly, I've been at a very safe distance from it all. Too safe. My role prior to the pandemic would have been to go into classrooms and observe, determine what improvements could be made for all students to be more active participants in their own learning. Since the pandemic, all has been very quiet. Even when I have offered help, it wasn't taken. So I too was curious about what was transferred and how learning was really taking place during virtual learning.

I did a call for success stories, and was impressed with the reply. I received message from parents, grandparents and students. The success stories ranged from young primary learners through high school students; students with emotional disability, autism and general (though severe) behavior challenges. All had one thing in common: they thrived outside the walls of schools. For some, it was the release of social pressure and distractions. For others, it was the reduction of voices of authority and the time and space to learn independently. For all, it was encouraging to be successful in learning.

The invitation to systems now is to consider what worked for those students. What supported the students who were perpetually not successful in school to be successful in virtual learning? And how can school leaders and teachers continue those supports back in school buildings?

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