A year ago this week, we watched a wave of school closures sweep across the United States. At that time, educators talked about “two week closures” or “extending Spring Break,” not realizing how naïve that would sound to our ears in 2021. In the past twelve months, we’ve watched schools create and iterate programs that allowed students and communities to learn in entirely new ways. We’ve expanded what it means to teach, design courses, and build curricula. Now, with vaccine distribution underway, and many states prioritizing educator vaccinations, we can see the storm beginning to abate.
And that, of course, leaves us with the question, “What’s next?”
One answer to that question is “Finally, we can get back to the way things were!” We miss the easy connections of pre-pandemic life: students crowding around a table to watch a lab demonstration, community assemblies, raucous crowds of spectators at athletic events. At the same time, we need to remember that we weren’t always in love with the pre-pandemic world: overscheduled days that started too early and ended too late, and the drumbeat of standardized testing.
Going back to where we were a year ago isn’t an option. We don’t want to stay in the constant uncertainty that has driven us for the past twelve months, and we don’t want to lose the radical resilience, imagination, and innovation we’ve developed. Consulting company McKinsey coined the term “The Next Normal” to describe this future that will be irrevocably shaped by the experience of the pandemic.
Over the next five months, we’ll be exploring what the next normal can look like for independent schools. Through blog posts, newsletters, and webinars, we’ll take a look at the ways that academic leaders can shape their schools’ evolution and transformation.
Through the end of the school year, we’ll be talking about the near future—what the next one to five years will look like. We begin with Tim Fish, Chief Innovation Officer of the National Association of Independent Schools, who will set the stage for our conversations. In future weeks, we’ll talk about the ways the past twelve months can transform our approaches to and actions on topics like equity, faculty culture, finances, technology, and much more. Over the summer, we’ll look further out, exploring blue sky thinking about the issues that will affect our schools ten years from now.
We want to hear from you--what do you think the next normal needs to be for your school, and what support do you need to get there?
Brad Rathgeber (he/him/his)