If anything has shaped a theme for this school year, aside from the obvious of teaching and keeping school safe in a pandemic, it’s the phrase “the only constant is change.”
All of us, students, teachers, staff, administrators, families, have had to make constant large and small adjustments daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, as we learn what the successes and challenges are for our students as we navigate what has been an unprecedented year.
Tuesday’s 3-2 decision by the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board to return the secondary schools to full day schedules for the 4th quarter seems par for the course. As with every decision that has changed the learning model for some or all students throughout this year, the decision is received with a wide spectrum of emotions and opinions.
As president of the Scottsdale Education Association, I have the responsibility, first and foremost, to be in a position to advocate for the supports that our certified staff need in order to best ensure the most appropriate learning conditions for our students. To that end, we submitted the results of a teacher survey to the board for consideration in this most recent decision.
Responses to the survey were invited from certified staff at the middle and high schools that would be affected by the outcome of the schedule change consideration. Of those who responded (about 430 out of 730 surveyed), approximately 84% preferred to maintain the current (3rd quarter) secondary schedule, which has students attending for a two-thirds day in person with alternating class periods each day and dismissing before lunch.
Teachers and students then have the afternoon school hours to engage in extra support. (The other approx. 16% preferred a regular full day schedule). This survey was only one of many pieces of information that the board considered in the decision.
To the large majority of respondents that preferred to stay the current course, they saw an opportunity to enhance what was working with the current model to better reach students, rather than disrupt the flow with yet another change in schedule and expectations.
They were responding to what they’ve heard students express as their worries and fears about what more changes would bring to an already challenging year, as well as the need for increased mitigation with the addition of lunch and more passing periods.
Teachers, administrators, parents, all of us are very worried about our students, and we all have a different opinion of what is going to work best to help them finish this year strong.
The board made the decision they thought best, weighing the information that they had. As worried as many teachers are, we will make it work. At the end of the day, the success of our students has much more to do with what we as educators do each day than how many minutes they are in a building.
Whether we are elated or defeated by the course set for the fourth quarter, we cannot afford to spend time dwelling in speculation of what might be. As has been our task throughout our careers in education, we will monitor and adjust.
Skilled educators know how to do this daily in a typical year, and even though our capacity to do so this year seems stretched beyond its limits, we will press on. As with every change that has come our way this year, we will continue to model flexibility and resiliency, and be the source of consistency, energy, and engagement on which our students depend.
As daunting as each new iteration of this school year has been, we have seen it through to the next steps with our students and we continue to move forward as a community.
When we reflect on the challenges that we had foreseen before the implementation of each new plan, we realize they were not as insurmountable as had been perceived. We will confront this anticipated hurdle with the same growth mindset and look forward to the outcomes.
Editor’s Note: Becky Williams is a Scottsdale Unified School District teacher and president of the Scottsdale Education Association.