Power through with...resilient thinking and planning
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The uncertainty and constant changes have been one of the most stressful parts of this school year.   Nearly every teacher I know has invested countless hours into setting up a system for one approach to learning, only to find out that everything’s going to be completely different the following day … and then it’s all going to change again two weeks after that.   Resilient pedagogy (as defined by Joshua Eyler) is “a combination of course design principles and teaching strategies that are as resistant to disruption and to change in the learning environment as possible.”   The idea is that the essential qualities of your lesson plans will be in place, no matter what changes in the way you deliver instruction.   A resilient approach to teaching requires us to SIMPLIFY and SCALE DOWN.   You’re not going to be able to offer kids all the resources and options you wish you could … and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.   Everything in our world right now is limited and restricted to an extent. If you go to a restaurant, for example, there are limitations as to where you can sit and probably fewer choices on the menu.    It’s the same for your instruction: the menu of options is different, and simplified. Since we were trying to cram in way too much to our pre-pandemic instruction, resilient pedagogy returns us to what is essential and most important. As you think about supporting your students during these final weeks of the school year, ask yourself, What would this look like if it were easy?  Then pick simple, flexible options that are going to reduce stress for you, your students, and their families.    I know that many of you are under immense pressure to hold to pre-pandemic expectations and learning standards. Many of your students are going to be taking standardized tests this year.   Do what’s necessary to power through this … but don’t devote a ton of time, energy, or attention to it.   Check the boxes, dot the i’s, cross the t’s. But keep your gaze steadily focused on what matters most for your students.    No one gives 100% to everything they do, so stop pressuring yourself to uphold that standard. Figure out what’s worth the investment and pour your heart and soul into that, and give 75% or 50% or 25% to the other things.   Think about what you’re doing that is really moving the needle for kids, and how you can get a return on your investment of time with future classes.   What things have you done this school year that were really effective and that can probably be used next year?   That’s where you want to devote the majority of your time and energy.    Obviously next school year’s still a question mark for many of us, too … but that’s where a resilient pedagogical approach really shines. Invest in lessons and activities that are context-independent (things that can work no matter what the teaching format is like in the future).    The stuff that’s just useful for now, or isn’t really doing much for kids?    Simplify it. Scale it down. Cut it out altogether if possible.  Flexible resilience seems like a necessary survival tool for the foreseeable future. Let’s lean into that instead of resisting it.  Because this is not a “lost year of learning” as so many folks outside the profession like to call it.    Sure, many kids will have adverse effects on their mastery of content due to the pandemic. That’s true. But just because it’s true doesn’t mean it’s healthy or useful to dwell on it. You don’t have to choose that framing, or think and talk constantly about “how far behind” kids will be.    Because it’s also probably true that some of your students are actually doing better now than they would be in a traditional classroom during a typical school year.    Some of your kids may be struggling academically or socio-emotionally, but not necessarily both, and some are experiencing some truly wonderful benefits right now, too.    Many of your students are learning to develop critical thinking, tech proficiency, self-advocacy, time management, socio-emotional regulation, and other important life skills in ways that far surpass their abilities earlier this school year. Those skills will help them get back on track with any content-area loss … this is probably also true, right?   And it’s certainly true that you will not be the only teacher grappling with this problem next year. The entire country (and many other countries around the world) will be dealing with how to keep moving kids forward after the disruptions we’ve experienced.    So, this is not your problem alone to solve. It’s a bridge that all of us are going to have to cross when we get there.    Can you see how this is a better-feeling thought than, “Half my class is failing and they’re never going to catch up?”    You can choose these better-feeling thoughts and then actively look for evidence of them throughout the day.    You can train yourself to focus on assets instead of deficits, or (as Dr. Byron McClure puts it), focus on what’s strong instead of what’s wrong.  Be flexible. Be resilient. Support your students in doing the same. We’re going to power through this, together.

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