Learning and Leading Through a Pandemic

I have been spending a lot of time evaluating this school year and my work as an educator through this pandemic. I have been teaching for a long time and normally have my prep work down to a science;  but this year I find I am spending many more hours trying to prepare lessons for my classes. There are a lot of reasons for this.  So many things have changed this year. I teach some classes synchronously to children learning from home. I teach my K-3 classes once weekly from a cart in their own classrooms to reduce the number of people in the hallway at any given time. I teach my 4-5 grade students on a one week rotation seeing different groups of students every other day and sending lessons home to the group that I am not seeing in person that day. All of these factors definitely play a role in the extra work needed to prepare to teach so many different ways. All instruments have to be sanitized before I leave the classroom and head to the next one so I need activities that allow me to use them and clean them before I move on to the next class.

I am now 5 weeks into this new way of teaching. I finally feel like I am starting to get on solid ground. This year has challenged me in so many ways. First, let me say how proud I am of our school and our staff for the way we have embraced this new way of doing things. Every teacher I see is doing their very best to make things as normal as possible for our students. But I think it’s important to recognize that no matter how hard we try, things aren’t normal. I have spent countless hours reading and learning new ways to present things to try to keep my students engaged. I am proud of all the things I have learned and tried to incorporate into my teaching.  

As I have been reflecting on the school year as our first trimester draws to a close, I have realized something so awesome. We at Taylor Mill Elementary School are truly living out our core values. We always do this, but these challenging times truly define these values. 

One of those which is so prevalent during this pandemic is Mind in Boat. This is so important right now. It says that we recognize circumstances are beyond our control but we focus on helping our students learn in the very best way we can. This is exactly what we are doing. I see it every day as I go in and out of each classroom. We all know the virus exists, but we have no control over that. We put that aside, though never far from our minds, and roll up our sleeves and get to work doing the very best we can for our students. 

Another core value that fits our current situation is Just like Roosevelt.  We have to do everything we can to help our students right now.  Is it perfect…? Of course not; but we are in that arena and giving our all for our kids. For many of us that means learning new tools and seeking out new ways to present things that we are teaching.  Sometimes things don’t work as planned but failure usually comes when we are “daring greatly,”  not from being unprepared. These are hard times and we can’t listen to the negative voices, even when they are our own. 

The Genius of AND is a third core value. It reminds us that we don’t have to choose between things. We can teach our students AND learn new things ourselves. We can teach students at home AND teach students at school. We can teach with old techniques AND new ones. It’s amazing how you grow when you don’t limit your possibilities. 

Last but not least, Turn that Ship Around. We have had a leader/leader culture since I have been at Taylor Mill. This helps make a cohesive team. We are all helping each other in ways we never dreamt would be a reality. Together, everyone achieves more! 

What a roller coaster ride this school year has been and will continue to be. While we can’t see what lies ahead we are all along for the ride and trying to make the best of it. I began this year in a cloud of uncertainty just trying to survive. Now, I see things differently. I am choosing to live in the moment. I cling to the second when I roll into a class and hear the children cheer because it’s music day! They are my why and what keep me going. 

We are making history in so many ways in 2020. I look forward to the day when we are looking back on all we are doing now with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Taylor Mill is one special place and it’s right where we belong. 

Jan Kane, Leader, Music Teacher, Taylor Mill Elementary


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