3 Conversations to Follow in 2023#Leadership
by Erin WerraRead time:
It makes the most sense to take a moment to step back and reflect first, instead of scrambling ahead. Still, so much edtech discourse leads us to forever ramp up for the next new trend or initiative. It’s easy to feel energized dreaming up ideas—but ideas without action cannot nourish lasting, positive change. So before we greet the new day and new year, we invite everyone to slow down, take stock of what matters most, and rest.
We dream big and work hard, taking baby steps in between. Let’s see where we might be heading in 2023.
Recouping student losses in 2020’s aftermathAfter any disaster, there’s rebuilding to be done, and emergency remote learning during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic was particularly disastrous. Black, Latino, and low-income students, already struggling pre-pandemic, fell farther behind than their peers, particularly in reading. Analysis showed students who stayed remote longer had worse outcomes than students who returned to in-person learning.
And while academics will always be important, the crux of what students lost over the pandemic is relationships. Going to school has only ever partially been about the three Rs and pop quizzes. Other crucial, irreplicable parts of school, the fourth R: safe relationships with adults and each other, were lost as well.
Rebuilding includes relationships, and the skills to create and maintain them, which withered on the vine during isolation. It’s no secret everyone in school districts needs a little extra help with these skills right now—studies show the effect of social isolation and unrest have changed people’s personalities at a faster rate than typical growth. More than ever, modeling healthy relationships with peers can help make up for the isolation students felt at a crucial point in development. Investing effort in interpersonal skills pays dividends when students advance to college, career, and a healthy life.
Additional resource: Tell Me Something Good
Educator burnout, staff retention, and loyaltyAll that rebuilding is exhausting work. What we’re not doing in 2023 is rewarding self-sacrifice with high fives and thumbs up—and no, not even bonuses.
Educators deserve a competitive salary, respect, and boundaries in exchange for their work of heart.
This empowered mindset comes from the top down in the form of coaching, culture, and community. The folks who lead school districts control their destinies with deliberate application of boundaries and culture. Empower teachers and back them up. Serve with them. Recruit students to show their families how your culture works—you’ll also be modeling how building community works.
Retaining staff is way tougher than any trend can solve. Ongoing conversation is vital to creating a healthy culture, winning loyalty, and maintaining trust. The important work you do with your existing team paves the way for expansion when it is possible, although hiring itself seems next to impossible. A thriving school district wasn’t built in a day, so ease off the pressure on yourself to find a quick fix—your heartfelt, incremental change builds sustainable solutions in ways hip shots could never.
Additional resource: The Best Benefit You Can Give Educators? Easing Their Mental Load
Data and physical security in schoolsK12 schools are targets. Period.
There’s really no two ways about it anymore. As ransomware bloomed exponentially, so did threats and actual violence in schools.
School districts are more than twice as likely as other organizations and businesses to face a ransomware attack. If your district data was captured tomorrow, how soon could you recover it? Could you recover it? Fine-tuning recovery plans, conducting phishing drills to measure the awareness of your staff and need for training, and monitoring data security conversations will always pique our attention.
Ditto for physical building safety. If there was a magical tech solution, you bet it would be in every school in America (right? 🧐). For now, technology can help secure school in ever-evolving ways, but the real heroes of the hallways will always be the trusted adults noticing red flags, connecting the dots between behavior reports, and showing up with interventions in hand before a student can show up with a weapon in hand.
Additional resource: The Cost of Proactive vs. Reactive Data Security
None of the challenges outlined above will be solved anytime soon. They’re the opposite of trends—the long-standing conundrums that keep administrators, teachers, families, and students up at night. They’re real and they’re tricky. But the solution to big problems is not to look past them to the next big trend instead. As we chip away at the most stubborn challenges to offer in school districts, we make progress. Progress is positive momentum. Momentum changes the world.
Thank you for every day you show up and build momentum for the people you lead. Happiest wishes for a wonderful New Year.
|Erin Werra Edtech Thought Leader|