The 2021 AASA Educational Conference had very timely topics for those who have been leading during the time of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Addressing topics such as social and emotional needs, equity, and schools reopening/digital needs, surely helped support leaders such as myself as we look at “what is next” for education and serving students now and in the future.
The one presentation that was my favorite had a message from Dr. Ruth Perez. Dr. Perez shared that to assist districts in the recovery from the past year’s crisis, we need to take the time to analyze the successes and obstacles that occurred in educational practices due to the Pandemic. Leaders need to have conversations with the staff and employees about what practices went well and should be continued, to create a “new norm” for meeting the learning needs for all students. A “ new norm” filtered through the lens of equity.
Another point that keeps coming forward in my reflection stems from the presentation, “Capturing Kids’ Hearts”. It focused on the fact that yes, as educators, we do indeed need to address the academic skill gaps that resulted from the Pandemic this past year. However, we can’t do that unless we address first and foremost the social and emotional needs of our staff and students. It is imperative that when our students and staff return, and when they walk into the building doors, that the environment is a safe place to be, to learn, and to work. The academic needs will be met. We must be intentional, however, to also meet the needs of the whole child, as well as the adults who work in our district. We could even go as far as to include parents, community and stakeholders as well.
I think about this educational convention and all the efforts of many to offer this opportunity on-line. It provided leaders the opportunity to hear amazing speakers and presenters, reenergize, and hear many “possibilities” for the future in education. However, as a leader, I too miss the connections, conversations, and development of professional friendships that can take place to higher levels when face-to-face. The energy that fills a room when thousands of leaders are gathered together under the umbrella of learning, re-energizing, and supporting one another for the very important work that we do. I can’t wait to participate in a conference, for what I would call my second first time, in person. I hope to see you at the 2022 conference!