April, 2021


It has been an unbelievable past twelve months…and that’s an understatement! Each of us could create a list to precisely describe the reasons why these past twelve months have been unprecedented. That list might include things like:

  • I haven’t seen my sister face-to-face.
  • I can’t take one more zoom call.
  • I still can’t figure out how to keep my glasses from fogging up.
  • I celebrated my niece’s first birthday with a “drive-by” parade.
  • I binge-watched more shows than I would care to admit.
  • I spent more time cooking meals from scratch.
  • I checked in with my parents every day.
  • I finally cleaned out my basement.
  • And more…

What would you put on your list? What might be your points of celebration? What would speak to sadness and heartache?

Each of us has experienced the past twelve months in incredibly different ways. Professionally speaking, this is also true. Some teachers have not physically seen their students since March 2020. Others have spent the majority of the 2020-2021 school year in socially-distance, masked classrooms. And yet others have bounced back and forth several times from bricks-and-mortar to remote learning. Regardless of the circumstance, teachers and leaders have had to very quickly shift teaching, instruction, assessment, evaluation, and leading between face-to-face and hybrid, blended, and online learning environments. However, learning platforms notwithstanding, teachers continue to recognize that leveraging powerful instructional and assessment practices not only create student success, but increase engagement.

Consider the elementary teacher who had her students send her a picture of “found” items in the home ordered from heaviest to lightest. In her weekly touchpoint with each child (either by phone or online meeting), she had the students tell her two things that she should notice in the picture. For example, one student said, “Please notice, Ms A, that even though the heaviest item is not the largest, it is still the heaviest.” or another who said, “Please notice, Ms A, that the first three weigh about the same amount.”

Or consider the high school science teacher who used virtual breakout rooms to have students engage in feedback cycles related to calculations about relative zero. As students, in turn, explained their thinking, the two other students in the breakout room used the following stems to provide feedback:

  • When you said _________, I had a better understanding of _________.
  • I was unclear when you said __________, because __________.
  • What did you mean when you said ___________, because I thought it meant __________.

These strategies are not unfamiliar. They just “feel” a bit different, because they are not taking place in familiar ways – whether that be sitting with students in a circle or having students in small working groups across the classroom. And yet, students are held at the centre of the learning, action, and interaction. Even in these times, we know that involving students deeply in their assessment pays off. Our students retain voice and agency; they are engaged in meaningful ways – ways that a worksheet simply cannot offer.

So, let’s return to our list. Each of us could create a list to precisely describe the reasons why these past twelve months have been unprecedented – from our professional standpoint. That list might include things like:

  • I haven’t seen my students face-to-face.
  • I can’t take one more Google Meet.
  • I still can’t figure out how to create breakout rooms.
  • I celebrated that Zahir was able to read a book all on his own.
  • I visited more educational websites than I can even count to learn what other teachers were doing to keep their students excited about learning.
  • I spent more time preparing lessons than I have in the past ten years.
  • I checked in with my students one-on-one each week.
  • I was excited when all of my students put their camera on so I could see their faces. 
  • I was able to adapt a strategy that always works for my students – and it still did!
  • And more…

What would you put on your list? What might cause you joy? What would speak to frustration and disappointment?

What a year it has been! 

Thank you for all each of you has done to support those around you. You are indeed walking the talk… Be kind. Be calm. Be safe. 

Continue, as always, to be the teacher and leader the world needs right now.


All our best wishes,


Sandra, Anne, Brenda and the connect2learning team