When Life Gives You Lemons

LeiLani Cauthen

To say this has been a crazy year is an understatement. Like you, our team has been trying our best to stay ahead of the curve and make adjustments to keep up with the ever-changing needs of our schools and districts.

It has been a challenge, as we pivot often and change the way we serve our members. And while we sometimes become discouraged, we keep coming back to the same realization. The need for what we do has never been greater. As a research institute and news media organization, the data we gather and share is instrumental to the success of our members as they provide the necessary inspiration for America’s learners.

Sometimes our decisions are obvious, and sometimes they are heartbreaking. But always, they are guided by one very simple question: How can best utilize our resources and relationships to serve America’s Learners? Last week, we had to make one of those obvious, yet heartbreaking decisions. We decided to postpone all our in-person regional events this Fall in favor of regional virtual events. Even though attendees were continuing to sign up for our signature live regional events, the logistics became too problematic. The realities of the Coronavirus pandemic made it impossible to guarantee venues, and travel for our staff between states was becoming increasingly restricted.

So, lemons/lemonade, we made the decision to hold super-regional virtual events around the country. On the plus side, the new virtual format will allow us to have much greater attendance and an enhanced program. On the minus side, we will miss the intimate settings and the opportunity to form genuine relationships with you, our attendees, many of whom have become close personal friends over the years.

As the pandemic rages on, the needs of our 215,000 members are continuously changing. That’s why the consistent research we do is so important. Respondents to our research surveys help dictate our agenda, as they have for our schedule of upcoming Fall super-regional events. Our latest research indicates your number one concern now as you embrace online instruction is, how can you motivate learners? How can you get learners to participate willingly, and how can you get learners to connect learning to their personal lives? How can you generate enthusiasm and excitement among your students?

These are tough questions, and the answer to these questions can make the difference between a successful transition to online learning and a failed experiment in online learning. Fortunately, the tools exist to get every teacher up to speed and to take what is a bad situation and make it not only palatable, bit in many cases finding outcomes that are even better than traditional in-class instruction.

There are wonderful resources the Learning Counsel has identified that make it possible for teachers to use virtual learning in very meaningful ways. The skills necessary to successfully teach online are very different than the skills we use in the classroom. Learning these new skills will give teachers the ability to make a difference in the lives of their learners during the pandemic and make them more complete professionals once children return. And in the likely event that a combination of in-seat and online learning will be with us for some time, teachers will be equipped with the skills and confidence to maximize the learning potential of every student they encounter.

Motivating students to learn can be challenging in the best of times. The trauma experienced by students during the pandemic can add layers to that equation. But the good news is, help is on the way. In our Fall virtual events, we’ll bring you the tools you need to become a superior online teacher, and we’ll share the best ways to motive learners when teaching remotely. All educators are welcome, and like our in-person events, everything is free for teachers and administrators.

The pandemic has been hard on all of us, and sometimes it seems like life keeps throwing us lemons. But we have too much at stake to spend our time dodging lemons. We’ll make the best of the situation, and when we are forced to move the learning online, we will transform our online instruction to be the very best instruction in the world. So, sit back, relax, and have a tall, cold glass of lemonade.


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