More on resilience planning for schools

Image source: Derek Wenmoth

“A hybrid is a mixture of two different things, resulting in something that has a little bit of both.”

There’s been a continuous stream of feedback following the publication of my previous blog post on resilience planning for schools, which confirms for me that this is indeed a hot topic for schools and kura here in NZ as we look ahead to the 2022 school year.

It seems there are a number of schools already thinking about how they might create a hybrid approach in 2022, but questions about what to do and how to achieve this abound, so I thought I’d address some of the ones I’ve been asked as a way of clarifying or expanding what I’ve written in the paper.

Isn’t this just what we did during the learning from home periods in 2020 and 2021?

In some ways it is, but the context is completely different, and requires a very different approach. In 2020 and 2021 the situation was more binary – schools were either closed or they were open, and that decision affected everyone. In 2022 we’re going be be faced with a continual movement of students and teachers in and out of school, depending on their requirement to be self-isolating due to exposure to COVID-19.

So, in 2020 and 2021 we were either teaching face to face, OR remotely. In 2022 we’re likely to have to work in a hybrid manner, with teaching and learning occurring both in person and remotely at the same time. Further, this won’t simply be two different groups of staff/students – it will be completely fluid, with those at school or at home changing on an almost daily basis.

It will be important to consider how we can design an approach that allows for this sort of movement to occur without causing significant disruption for either staff or students. Thus my suggestion of starting from the perspective of representing ‘school’ online so that the constraints of the systems and processes of physical school don’t dominate the design thinking of the hybrid approach.

Will I have to be teaching in class and online at the same time?

Streaming class lessons as they are being taught is only one of the approaches you may consider in a hybrid model – thus the point of my scenarios diagram at the top of this post (taken from the document). I am aware of at least one secondary school in NZ that has set up a second monitor in classroom spaces, with a camera focused on the class so that students at home can participate in the lessons as they are happening. While that is definitely one approach under the hybrid definition, it won’t suit every context – or the people involved.

The decision about what approach to take will depend on things such as…

  • the teacher’s pedagogical approach
  • the teacher’s (and student’s) confidence and ability in working this way
  • how appropriate it is to the particular subject/theme/topic being taught
  • the reliability of the technology

In many situations, where the teacher presentation is required, it may be more effective to simply record a lesson and put it up online to be viewed at the time and place that suits the learners (both on-site and off-site).

A fully deployed hybrid approach will consider using strategies from all four quadrants of the scenarios diagram at the head of this post.

How will this affect employment conditions?

This is a really gnarly one. Under the lockdown/learning from home scenario, all teachers simply shifted their activity to working online with their students. In a hybrid model this isn’t as clear cut, particularly when considering that some of the teachers at home may be ill and on sick leave. I had these questions emailed to be today…

Under a hybrid model potentially with teachers working from home do you know if contractual/collective implications have been considered anywhere? eg if a teacher is at home isolating but teaching then they are on full pay – even if a reliever is used?
And if working from home becomes the norm for extended periods will expenses be recoverable from school and/or tax system?
Are you on sick leave if you can still teach albeit you may still be sick but with mild symptoms?

These are questions I’m not in a position to answer, but am certainly interested in the answers we might discover together.

In terms of a school I’m currently working with our assumptions around teachers working from home at present are based purely on a similar arrangement as under the learning from home situation in 2020/21, so we’re only considering it in situations where teachers may be self isolating because of being a close contact and not exhibiting symptoms, so are still in a position to work, simply not able to do that on-site. If/when they exhibit symptoms then technically they’d be considered on sick leave and would mean it isn’t possible (or ethical) to ask them to work remotely. So I guess the issue becomes one of when a teacher decides to ‘officially’ register as being on sick leave.

There are precedents, for example, I’m aware of situations where teachers are recovering at home after surgery but still working with students remotely, their rationale being that they aren’t in a position to be physically on-site for a full day, and are thus on leave under sick leave provisions – but they do feel capable of connecting with students or supervising learning from their home for all or part of the day. 

These are important questions that will need to be pursued at a higher level in order to address any legislative or employment agreements changes that may be required.

What about issues of equity and poverty?

One person who read my paper submitted the following:

Poverty continues to be a significant contributor to educational opportunity. Where whānau are focussed on finding food, paying for internet, and devices, no matter how low the cost, results in Maslow’s hierarchy dominating daily existence. There needs to be a system solution to addressing the resulting disadvantage to children, which is very real in some areas after two years of significant education disruption.

I replied by acknowledging that this was an important lesson identified from the initial lockdown, and reinforced in the course of this year. It highlights the complex ecosystem that schools are a part of. Food resilience is, and always has been, a community issue and from the lessons learned during lockdown, I’d have hoped we’d be seeing by now a far broader, strategic community response. In the community I live, for example, this has been picked up as a significant issue by the local food banks and local council. Rather than continuing to work in relative isolation there has now emerged a collaborative enterprise, planning strategically how to ensure that families in the community who need this sort of support are provided for. Schools continue to have an important role it it all as part of helping identify where the need is and making connections with the places that can provide the support etc., but are not the primary suppliers. Rather than taking the burden of it all upon themselves, and consequently turning attention away from their core mission, schools should be seeking to establish their part in broader, community initiatives that are more appropriately connected and equipped to meet these needs.

That said, there will still be schools in areas where this level of support isn’t yet available within the community, and so they will need to be pro-active, on behalf of their students, to find ways of addressing the need before they can focus fully on programmes of learning.

Down load your own copy of the Resilience paper…

You can download the “Resilience Planning of Schools” document from the Thought Pieces page on the FutureMakers website.

I’d be keen to hear your thoughts and experiences, and stories of what you’re doing in your school as you prepare for the year ahead.

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