#77 – Recalibrating Normal

Unpacking Education February 2, 2022 30 min

Nobody knows exactly what education will look like in the future. However, we can continue to grow and improve based on our past experiences. Two school years of pandemic learning have forced schools to do things differently and try new things, and teachers have grown in many ways. In this podcast episode, we talk about what these past two years mean for education and ask several thought-provoking questions: Has anything about education fundamentally changed because of these past two years? Do we have a new definition of normal in our schools? Now that most classrooms are able to be back face-to-face, how do we continue to move forward and leverage what we’ve learned, rather than simply turning back the clock two years and returning to what was comfortable?

Tune in to this episode to hear the team’s conversation about how to look at a “new normal” in education. We’re joined once again by Cherie Spencer, Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator from Galveston, Texas. Together, we explore the questions that are on our minds about the future of education.

Paul Beckermann
PreK–12 Digital Learning Specialist
Rena Clark
STEM Facilitator and Digital Learning Specialist
Dr. Winston Benjamin
Social Studies and English Language Arts Facilitator

Change is the end result of all true learning.

Leo Buscaglia, author and college professor


The following resources are available on AVID Open Access to explore this topic in more depth:

How Can We Grow From Our Experiences These Past Two Years?

In this week’s episode, Rena says, “If we’re not learning, we’re not changing.” During the past two years, educators have grown exponentially and learned a lot about technology and new instructional strategies. This new knowledge has the potential to transform and improve instructional practices in our face-to-face classrooms. While we don’t want to change simply for the sake of changing, we also don’t want to waste the learning and growth that we’ve achieved while teaching in hybrid and distance learning environments. Returning to the way that we taught two years ago because it’s familiar and comfortable would be wasting this opportunity. We must ask ourselves how we can apply what we’ve learned in a way that changes education for the better.

Throughout this week’s episode, we converse with a strength-based mindset regarding the past two years. We discuss what we have learned, how we have grown, and what it all means for our students and classrooms moving forward. The following are some of the key takeaways that you’ll hear discussed in this week’s episode:

  • Who Defines Normal?: Normal means something different to every stakeholder: students, teachers, parents, administrators, etc. We need to learn from each group how they define normal and not assume that everyone sees things through the same lens. This combined definition can give us context moving forward.
  • Change and No Change: While our strategies and tools have significantly expanded, our purpose has largely stayed the same. We still must connect with our students, teach curricular content, and differentiate. However, we now have many more tools and strategies in our tool kits that we can bring into our classrooms. This presents exciting potential moving forward.
  • Don’t Go Back: It’s comfortable to go back to what is known. However, simply going back and disregarding what has been learned would be doing a disservice to ourselves, our students, and our profession. We can take what we’ve learned—something Paul calls the “new teacher superpowers”—and transform what our classrooms look like. We can infuse the best of the new and keep the best of the old.
  • Blend and Balance: With all the new strategies we have discovered and learned, education can be better than ever. Part of this means finding the right balance—a balance between online and offline learning and a balance between independent and collaborative group work. Each approach has a place in the new normal of our classrooms. We need to determine where and when to use each strategy.
  • Use the Tried and True: Don’t forget the strategies that have worked well in the past, which can include project-based learning, blended learning, inquiry learning, hybrid courses, and Universal Design for Learning. As the old saying goes, we don’t want to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” when we move back to a face-to-face classroom experience.
  • Life Skills: Distance and hybrid learning have given students the opportunity (and necessity) to develop important life skills, such as autonomy, responsibility, and independence. These are skills that we’ve always wanted for our students. Let’s continue to look at the assets that our students have gained during the pandemic and build upon those.