July is almost half over, and the 2020-21 school year looms in the murky near future. While every private, independent school leader we know is spending their summer creating and modifying multiple scenario plans for how school might work as summer transitions into fall. Tempting as it may be to plow into the new year assuming your veteran faculty are ready to dive back into work, this would be a serious mistake. Regardless of which scenario ends up being closest to reality, we believe every teacher and staff member will need “re-onboarding” to your school.
Remember what has happened since school resumed in January 2020 after the winter break: every teacher and student made the pivot–some more elegantly than others–to remote teaching and learning; every athletic event, along with theater, concerts and graduation, canceled; COVID-19 grew into a pandemic that engulfed every single country on the planet at put 1.6 billion children out of school; approximately 40 million Americans, and hundreds of millions more around the world, suddenly found themselves unemployed and without paychecks; the lethality and unpredictability of the disease became apparent; personal protective equipment became ubiquitous wherever face-to-face interaction occurs, and the likely future of schools, like hotels, restaurants, gyms, and airlines, includes obsessive cleaning, social distancing, limited access, and rampant fear of infection even when precautions are taken. In this context, every school employee has experienced big changes in how and where they work and in what they find satisfying and anxiety-provoking about school.
No matter how school resumes, teachers will not simply walk back into their classrooms as if it were January 2020, and likely will never do so again in that way. Approaching the faculty and staff work period in the run-up to school as re-onboarding recognizes that everyone is starting work in a whole new world.