Creative, Forward-Thinking Educators Propel Iowa's Students Forward: Heartland AEA Series Part 2
This blog post is the second in a two-part series from the Heartland Area Education Association (AEA).
At the start of 2020, Iowa’s educators could never have imagined such an abrupt shift in their practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators possess a deep passion for their students and communities, and as expected, their response to school closures has been nothing less than impressive. In a matter of hours and days, educators in school districts across Iowa altered their thinking to adapt to a new ordinary. Administrators spent countless hours in meetings planning next steps, while teachers and support staff rallied around not just the curricular needs of students and families, but also the physical needs of meals and emotional needs of safety and mental health. It was, and is, the forward thinking of our educator community in Iowa that is propelling us onward. This brings to mind two questions: How do we move forward? What does the future entail?
There certainly remains much “unknown” moving forward, but the future remains an attainable feature of our work in education. All educators continue to embrace the reality on their horizon. Although the physical features of the brick and mortar classroom are not accessible today, the learning that occurred within the walls prevails.
School Districts in Iowa Educate Students Using the Iowa Core Standards
Moving forward, educators will continue to use the Iowa Core Standards as a gauge for student achievement. Having these standards as common learning provides a foundational curriculum for each and every student, whether dispensed virtually or in-person.
Educators Participate in Professional Learning
Moving forward, all educators will dedicate time to improving their practice, collaborating with colleagues and knowledge acquisition. During this “shut down,” educators have pursued learning with an increased fervor and determination in virtual learning environments such as webinars, online courses, digital meetings and professional learning networks. In Iowa, there remains a skilled teacher workforce.
Moving forward, educators will continue to integrate technology tools to support student learning. Integration of technology in the classroom has always been an exercise in updating practices for enhancing college and career readiness, including proficiency of the Iowa Core 21st Century Skills. Remote learning, including educational enrichment opportunities for students, will amplify student skills in this area.
Teachers Will Teach
Moving forward, teachers and administrators will remain the fundamental beacon of learning in Iowa. Classrooms, whether virtual or in-person, exist and allow for human interaction and child development. Calls, letters, printed packets, virtual classroom meetings, electronic assignments and social media posts are evidence of this unwavering commitment. Educators will devote their time and talent determining ways to execute effective instruction and assessment.
Educators Understand the Importance of Students’ Social + Emotional Needs
Moving forward, educators will maintain efforts directed toward educating the “whole child.” Every day, the education community strives to provide its students with a comprehensive learning experience. The acute awareness of students’ social, emotional and mental health needs during this time has not been lost by educators who remain relentless in their quest to meet the call to support students entirely.
Moving forward, fairness for academic success and a comprehensive standard of inclusion will remain unceasing principles in our work. Whatever obstacles the new day bestows, educators persist in calling to question whether or not all students have what they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Iowa Educators Communicate + Unite
Moving forward, educators will work collaboratively, across the state, to continue to communicate and unite around best practices, innovative strategies and solution-focused pathways in uncharted times. Iowa’s model of school improvement uses state and federal law to position the Iowa Department of Education, Area Education Agencies (AEAs) and school districts to engage in continuous improvement, together, for the benefit of Iowa students.
Shared Vision for Iowa’s Students
Moving forward, educators will sustain their pattern of planning and preparation for high-quality, impactful learning to occur in the 2020-21 school year and beyond. Even though the short-term conditions are challenging, educators will continue to adhere to a multi-tiered system of support in which evidence-based practices address the needs of all students. They will not retreat from a collaborative effort and shared vision of student achievement in Iowa.
The forecast of life in the next month, three months and even a year from now remains foggy. The clarity of where we are headed is murky. Discomfort and unease may be shadowing a clear path for our students. But moving forward … educators will carry on, persevere and persist.
You can count on The Partnership to continue to share accurate and fact-based updates as well. See more on COVID-19 here.