Most who know me regard me as an optimist, someone who looks on the ‘bright side’ of things. Certainly, throughout my career I have had the privilege of being involved in a wide range of innovative and ‘hope-bringing’ initiatives. Some may say it’s a result of how I’m wired, and there’s bound to be truth in that. But another reason is that I’ve always had a fascination with emerging ideas and innovations, and have always been scanning the environment to keep abreast of trends and new thinking. – so my actions have generally been inspired or motivated by the things I see coming.
Right now, however, my sense of optimism is feeling ‘dented’. This time last year I wrote a blog post in which I outlined my concerns about the difficulties I foresaw in the coming year (2022), and introduced a paper titled Resilience Planning for Schools which outlined a series of things I believed schools could and should be considering in order to cope with the disruption that I believed we’d experience in 2022. At that time I was becoming agitated by what I perceived as a lack of real engagement with what so many ‘signals’ were saying, and a lack of forward planning based on the sort future they foretold.
Fast forward to February 2022 and suddenly these things began to impact schools and classroom teachers. My resources on resilience planning and hybrid learning were downloaded hundreds of times, the MoE began providing 25 hours of PLD for schools to prepare themselves for hybrid learning, various webinars and forums were established to share ideas and the MoE also added a section with advice on hybrid learning on their learning from home website.
Then, just as quickly as the interest in hybrid learning ramped up, by the second half of the year it waned, to the point that, by the end of the year it’s now hardly mentioned. In fact, in speaking to many of my friends who are parents and grandparents of tamariki in schools, the end of year messaging appears to have focused on the expectation that things will be able to ‘return to normal’ next year.
But what if that’s not the case? What if we’re failing to look up (again) and some of these signals actually manifest in more disruption in 2023? How prepared are we as educators, as schools and as a system to avoid this taking us by surprise? What strategies and approaches have we developed during 2022 that will ensure our resilience under such circumstances?
In the table below I’ve selected just a few of the things I’ve been reading about and pondering their possible impact on schools in the 2023 school year…
Now, I’m not wanting to paint a ‘doom and gloom’ picture at all here. We can be certain of none of these things, and the optimist in me hopes for the best. However, it’s a bit like making plans for the Summer camping trip. I always consult the weather forecast – both short term and long term, and consider the options that are presented from the forecasting modelling that is carried out. On that basis I go prepared for the conditions that I may encounter.
That’s what my plea is here. It may be that only some, none – or all, of these signals manifest themselves in 2023. But our responsibility as educational leaders is to ensure our learners can continue with their learning with the least amount of disruption or disadvantage. And the same applies to our teachers.
So there it is, my reflection here is; “have we fully taken advantage of the opportunity we had in 2022 to develop the levels of resilience in our schools and system to be able to withstand another year of disruption in 2023?” I fear not.
Of course, there have been many initiatives taken by schools around the motu, some of which have been documented on the MoE’s Learning From Home website, as well as the schools such as those in the Manaiakalani network which have been using digital technologies to enable seamless home-school learning for some years now. More recently I’ve had the privilege of working alongside a fabulous group of teachers who have explored a range of innovative ways to connect learners with their learning regardless of location which have just been published on the Tai Tokerau Hybrid learning Project website.
Despite all of this, I remain concerned about the lack of any real movement forward as a system to engage with the level of transformed thinking required to ensure the degree of resilience required. Sadly, with an election year coming up, it’s likely that many of these concerns, as legitimate as they are, will become weaponised as individuals and political parties appeal for support for their particular ideologies.
Rather than succumb to this, let’s build on the great work already done and the success stories we have access to – in NZ and internationally. There’s so much that individual schools can do to build a resilient approach and I encourage school leaders to embrace this challenge as they head away to a well-deserved break. Otherwise it’ll be my grandkids who again are left to ‘catch up’ as if it’s their fault there’s been such a lack of continuity in their learning.
For holiday reading I’ve listed below the resources that many schools found helpful in the early part of 2022 – perhaps they’ll be found useful again. In particular I’d recommend the one titled Being Resilient: Characteristics of Resilient Schools as a useful start point for conversations with your staff at the beginning of the 2023 school year, to evaluate how well your school, your systems and processes etc, are designed to meet this challenge.
Simply click on the image below to access the resource, or visit my Hybrid Learning page where these and other resources are linked.