Mirrors of the Community – Schools Expand Function During Crisis

During this COVID-19 pandemic, leaders and government officials are realizing that schools function both “as a window and as a mirror” of their community. Schools and districts readily serve as a window to view the immediate needs of our students and their families. Schools also serve as a mirror to showcase the shortcomings that may exist in the access to available resources. Schools have also undertaken the responsibility of making sure students have daily meals, providing ongoing instruction, and checking in on families and providing support services. Guidance counselors and mental health professionals have all been on call and available for our students. Bus drivers, custodians, and support professionals are staffing food, materials, and supply distribution centers and providing delivery when necessary.

As elementary through post-secondary schools across the nation close, extraordinary collaborations are occurring throughout the educational community to support learning outside of the physical classroom. Many educational companies, digital and teaching platform services, are providing limited-time free access to teachers, students, and their families. Some providers are offering free access to the state-accredited curriculum and are creating daily instructional videos.

This crisis has demonstrated that few states have active comprehensive plans that address issues such as disease prevention, emergency procurement and staffing, flexible or remote instruction, or plans for students to access services when schools are closed. We are seeing governors and departments of education step up to provide great stability, direction, and leadership during these times. Like so many of my colleagues, teachers recognize that this is the work that needs to be done to help our students succeed. Teachers are increasing their knowledge of technology tools to further interact with their students and to stay connected. Parents and grandparents are creating at-home classrooms. Students are learning new techniques for learning as they transition to online.

We are learning some hard lessons in this crisis period, but they will help prepare us for the future. Strengths will be highlighted, and educational delivery systems will be shared for all of us to learn from. In the future, we will all need to advocate for solutions to address the inequities and inequalities in school funding, professional learning, resources, and readiness for non-traditional instruction.

Jana Bryant is the district math instructional coach for Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro, Kentucky and is a National Board Certified Teacher in Mathematics. She serves as a 2019 Educators for High Standards fellow and an EdReports Klawe Lead Fellow. She served as 2017-2019 Teacher Advisory Council (TAC) Member for Hope Street Group, an EdReports mathematics content reviewer, and a Standards Advocate with Student Achievement Partners. She is passionate about finding ways to develop state and national leadership teams that have a pulse on the needs and concerns of teachers, students and their families. It is important for teachers to communicate their ideas about education, what is working and what needs changing, to our elected officials and decision-makers. Follow Jana on Twitter at @JanaBryant14.