Planning for Reentry: Amplifying the already present strengths of special/EL educators

We are two weeks away from the end of the school year here in Nashville. Last weeks of zoom calls and printed packets, finishing closing tasks in new ways, and new conversations emerging around what’s next. Extended School Year is being moved virtually but there remain significant questions about what August will look like. In or out? Together but apart or more zooms at home? How will we get to know our new students, understand their needs, and provide aligned support? One question seems to open ten more – it’s hard to know where to begin untangling.

As our team conversations have shifted to supporting schools in re-entry planning, we have continually been refreshed by the perspectives and ideas of the special and EL teachers we serve. In reflecting on this, it hit us that it is perhaps the diverse learner educators who are most prepared to help us through this crisis. Here’s why…

Special and EL educators are, at their core, solution seekers. We work with the children for whom the first, second, and third solutions did not work — and demonstrate a tenacity for finding a solution that will. Our abilities to assess context and develop unique ways of meeting new challenges will prove helpful in planning for the 2020-2021 school year.

Further, those who serve diverse learners are truly student-centered. We are experts on understanding student context, interaction with environment, and aligning instruction and support to meet these needs. These skills complement a core content teacher’s focus on understanding and delivering high quality academics to the most students. In planning for re-entry, school systems will benefit from the student-centered solutions that will come from its special and EL educators.

Special and EL educators are data driven. Specifically, we have keen abilities to collect the right data in small amounts over time, monitor progress, and agilely make adjustments to improve outcomes. In a season where we don’t know what works yet because it’s never been tried, being closely connected to the right data will prove essential.

Lastly, special and EL educators can rally a team like few others. We can quickly build rapport with a variety of team members, bring and amplify family voices at the table, collaborate across differences, and produce a product of consensus. As we determine our next steps, engaging our communities will be central to a successful plan.

Special and EL educators are particularly positioned to support our school’s re-entry plans. So here’s my challenge for you:

School leaders: Are you engaging your diverse learner educators in the process of planning for the new school year in authentic ways? If so, how can you further leverage their talents? If not, today may be the day to start this conversation!

Teachers: How are you engaging in conversations about next year? You have something to contribute!

Here at the DLC, we will continue to source quality resources to support your re-entry work, provide relevant professional development, and engage directly with your school teams as thought partners and coaches. We will be launching a new initiative, Strategic Equity Team (SET) coaching, in the coming weeks as a way to serve your team in planning the “what’s next” for students with disabilities and multilingual students. Be on the lookout for steps to join soon!

We are deeply grateful for the work you are doing to best prepare your diverse learners for lifelong success, even when it is challenging during this uncertain season.

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