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Right now, you are probably hearing lots of questions, being offered plenty of advice, and receiving a good measure of pressure to explain exactly what will happen as school reopens. Predictably what you are hearing concerns how teaching will occur, how the environment will be structured, what the schedule will be, what resources will be available, and other related areas of seemingly urgent interest. 

It can be tempting, even satisfying, to deal with these issues, as they need to be resolved in a timely manner. However, becoming preoccupied with answers to these elements while neglecting the most important issue can turn out to be a trap. While reassuring people about their roles and concerns can feel like leadership, such an approach risks missing the most important consideration in reestablishing school for the new year. 

The bottom line is that what matters most is learning and the best ways for learning to happen. It does not matter what the schedule will be, where resources will be allocated, how days will be scheduled, or even how teaching will be organized until we have fully considered and understand what learning needs must be met. Students will be returning to school after living through a variety of settings and learning experiences. Unless we begin our thinking and planning with these needs in mind, we risk neglecting the needs of many and serving only a minority of students well. 

Grounding discussions need to start with and remain focused on what students will need to support their learning and health. This foundational understanding must drive decisions about how teaching roles will be structured, how schedules should be organized, what environments will be best aligned, and where resources should be allocated. 

Admittedly, many adults around you want to know what their world will be like. This perspective is natural. But our focus needs to be on the main thing: serving the needs of learners in the best practical way. Once we have this anchor, we can align everything else and keep the main thing the main thing. Make no mistake: As long as students are learning, all will go better. But if learning falters, all else will be regarded as insignificant. 

Thought for the Week

Simply pulling a strategy “off the shelf” or defaulting to the most recently read article or staff development session topic may not generate the results we seek.

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