Creativity and innovation are valuable tools for an educator to have, and right now, these traits are more important than ever. Finding new ways to connect with students and keeping their spirits as high as possible as we practice social distancing are essential to maintaining educational standards and ensuring the future leaders of our country can achieve the level of success they aspire to.
Morris Lyon, former superintendent of the Hawkins Independent School District and now senior governance advisor at Texas Education Agency, is one educator who is very much committed to keeping students’ learning processes intact while ensuring that district leaders tend to school pride and school spirit.
Initiated by Lyon before his departure, Hawkins’ innovative Camp R.O.C.K. (Reaching Our Community and Kids) initiative and regularly updated FAQ page have been instrumental in keeping students’ formal learning on track. Quality education is more than just sharing and evaluating lesson plans however. Going beyond traditional educational boundaries to provide a more dynamic learning experience for students (even, or especially, in trying times like these) and going the extra mile is what separates the great educators from the good educators, and Lyon and his Hawkins colleagues certainly strove for the former designation during the 2019/2020 school year.
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Social media campaigns have proven to be a popular method by which education stakeholders can celebrate milestones and achievements for both students and teachers. Hawkins very much embraced this trend, having utilized social media to great effect during the coronavirus pandemic.
Various activities on social media (Lyon has found that most students are active on Instagram, while parents tend to use Facebook more) helped keep Hawkins’ students and parents engaged with their school and with one another. Hawkins held a virtual Spirit Week in late March that saw various school stakeholders and students emailing photos of themselves wearing school apparel to a designated email address, which were then shared online.
Other occasions, such as Earth Day, were celebrated in a similar manner, with individuals posting photos of themselves performing acts of environmental kindness. Cheerleading tryouts, a virtual science fair, and a physical education field day were all held virtually. Using social distancing measures, Hawkins ultimately held a graduation celebration, but the school also spotlighted its seniors regularly on its Facebook page as details were hammered out.
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In recognition of student achievement and faculty landmarks, including retirement, Hawkins came up with other creative ways to celebrate these milestones.
“We obviously couldn’t hold a formal end-of-year teacher appreciation dinner and awards banquet like we usually would,” Lyon explained. “So, we held a ‘drive-thru’-style meal that looped around campus, letting participants stay in their cars. We had various courses at select stations that were spaced out enough to adhere to the government’s social distancing guidelines.”
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Lyon is also optimistic about how the adjustments made by education professionals during this time might prove fortuitous in the future.
“This whole situation has obviously been tough to deal with, but we hope that some good things can come from it,” said Lyon. “Everyone in education is learning how to be more transparent and reach students in new ways via technology. Some of us who still have one foot in the ‘old school’ are being pushed harder to modernize and become more efficient. It’s important to remember that we’re not reinventing the wheel with all of this; we’re just pivoting the delivery of learning methodology and fostering better engagement with our students. These are all things that we’ll appreciate when we come out of this and get back to in-person contact with one another.”
For more perspectives from the education community regarding issues surrounding learning and teaching during the coronavirus pandemic, be sure to check out the Marzano Research Friends & Family Blog Series.