What Comes Next?

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As you read this post, please keep one thing in mind: I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.

With 16 years of experience teaching middle and high school students, and 18 years working with teachers, students, and administrators in schools at all levels, I’ve certainly been involved with many openings to the academic year. Along with more than a few disruptions to that process. But certainly nothing like 2020.

Anyway, what follows is my rambling speculation on the start of the coming school year in our overly-large school district (and probably many other places), along with some bits of advice. Take what you like and ignore the rest.

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Another Fresh Start

Although the astronomical end of summer doesn’t arrive until September 21st, today, the Labor Day holiday in the US, is the symbolic end of the season. This weekend is sort of a dividing line between a couple of months in relative slow motion and the life getting back to normal, whatever that looks like to you.

It’s also that time of year when teachers and football coaches have something in common: that positive feeling of getting a fresh start on a new season and a chance to fix all the mistakes made in previous years.  Of course, when you get away from the fact that both schools and football teams share a fall start, the similarities quickly disappear.

Probably the largest divergence being that the coach has a good understanding of the talent he has on his squad, whereas most teachers will be working with children they’ve never seen before. And the scouting data they have to work with is not especially reliable.

I haven’t had a classroom of my own for many years, and as I’ve ranted about many times, I’m not a big fan of discrete academic years, but I still have some of the same optimistic feelings. After a very busy summer of planning, and a couple of successful professional learning events in August, this is going to be a very good year.

However, I’m afraid my hopeful feelings really only apply to the somewhat narrow focus of my job. Prior to kicking things into high gear this week, we’ve spent a lot of time discussing with teachers and school administrators how they can help their kids to develop their critical thinking skills and using technology for creative purposes.

As you broaden the view of American education from individual schools to the district, state and national level, my pessimism level rises. Too much of the conversation in those forums is dominated by people more concerned about data than about kids and crafting proposals firmly rooted in the previous century. 

Anyway, I’m not sure where this rambling mess is going so I’ll just end it now, while attempting to retain my Labor Day optimism throughout the coming school year.