The New Better (pt. 1) – What is it?

Skip Tyler

The past few years in education have been tough. Everything we knew about teaching was upended and we were forced to learn how to deliver instruction in a new way.

Schools are returning to what they looked like 5 years ago. No social distancing. No virtual instruction. No dividers and masks. However, things aren’t like what they used to be. I keep hearing educators use the phrase “This is the new normal” when speaking about the challenges we are now facing in education. However, there is nothing normal about what we are doing! Teachers are different. Students are different. School is different. 

When I started getting back into classrooms last year and observing teachers providing instruction, I noticed some trends. Some teachers resorted to pulling out their pre-pandemic lesson plans and materials to provide instruction. Other teachers had a classroom full of students but were using digital resources they had created when they were providing virtual instruction. This is what made me start using the phrase “The New Normal Better”. 

“The New Better” is all about taking what we learned the past few years during virtual instruction and combining it with what we were doing prior to COVID. Let’s identify what worked over the past few years and make sure we are still doing it now. Let’s identify the challenges of pandemic teaching and use that to realize what is important now. Turn the negative into a positive. That is the new challenge. How do each of us use our experiences over the past few years to continue to improve and be better tomorrow. That is what is at the core of “The New Better”.

This year, I delivered several keynote addresses to teachers at K-12 math conferences. As part of my presentation, I asked teachers to identify the successes and challenges of “pandemic teaching”. Teachers worked independently and wrote down their thoughts on individual sticky notes. After providing them with individual think time, teachers worked collaboratively in small groups to share and compare their ideas. Talking in their small groups helped them look for the commonalities of their ideas and narrow them down into more focused topics. The small groups identified common themes for both successes and challenges.

Before sharing the results from my presentations, I’m curious what you think are some of the successes that resulted from pandemic teaching. Please share in the comments!

(Don’t worry, I’ll share the combined results with you in future blog posts!)

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