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What K-12 lessons have you learned during COVID-19? A superintendent shares five lessons he has learned during this unprecedented time.

The past seven months have been unchartered waters for school communities. COVID-19 has brought with it a constantly changing landscape for how to educate K-12 students safely. My optimism for education transformation remains as strong today as I wrote about last spring.

No doubt, when we look into the rearview mirror on this school year, we will discover many lessons learned. I recently paused and thought about our school community during COVID-19. Five K-12 lessons we have learned stand out and I hope they will remain with us long after this crisis.

Prioritize people over performance

Often leaders rush to the finish line and focus on bottom-line numbers. The key, however, is to make people a priority. Define organization success in terms of people, not test scores, dollars saved, or hours worked. In March 2020 and now as Fleming County Schools reopen with in-person and virtual classes, people are our priority. We define success in terms of people’s health, safety, and well-being – publicly and privately. 

Be flexible 

During a crisis, many policies and protocols prove to be outdated and useless. Instead of developing a plan tailored to pre-COVID-19 systems and processes, adopt policies and procedures to organizational needs, precisely people’s needs. 

Find time to focus on you

I believe in #Find20 – the importance of finding at least 20 minutes each day to focus on you, whether taking a walk, reading a book, listening to music, or journaling. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen anxiety and depression reach unimaginable levels. As schools reopen, anxiety levels will continue to rise, increasing the need and importance of finding time to focus on you throughout the day. Finding 20 minutes will do wonders for your personal and professional life.

Rediscover the great outdoors 

Who would have thought school leaders would be encouraging outdoor classrooms. There have been sporadic adoptions and creations of outdoor learning spaces in the past, but nothing like we are experiencing this school year. Something is rejuvenating about going outside, far more than attributing it to Vitamin D. With students and staff required to wear face coverings during in-person classes, outdoor learning allows for needed breaks for fresh air. Furthermore, outdoor education leads to positive attitudes and lowers anxiety, depression, and fears – it’s a natural decompression for us. 

Embrace the moment 

Many leaders, thankful and rightfully so, are recognizing the moment that a global pandemic provides education. Most educational leaders at the local, state, and federal levels are not voicing the traditional speeches about the importance of state testing and test scores. Instead, most leaders tell teachers to deliver the lesson they have always wanted to do but could never squeeze in due to rigid pacing guides or curriculum maps, designed around high-stakes testing. Teachers, even those we didn’t think would, are using the school’s technology in new and profound ways to deliver instruction and to engage with students and families. 

Brian Creasman

Dr. Brian Creasman’s Twitter profile says he has the best job in Kentucky! As superintendent of Fleming County Schools since 2014, he has the privilege of leading, learning and collaborating with students, staff, and the best community each day. Over his career, he has been fortunate to serve as a teacher, assistant principal, middle school principal, high school principal, and assistant superintendent. Recognized as a National Certified Superintendent by AASA, Brian's areas of interest include school and district transformation, teacher leadership, student voice, and empowering others to do BIG things for students. Brian is the 2020 Kentucky Superintendent of the Year and a nationally recognized author — having co-authored The Leader Within: Understanding and Empowering Teacher Leaders, Growing Leaders Within: A Process toward Teacher Leadership, Can Every School Succeed? Bending Constructs to Transform an American Icon, and ConnectED Leaders: Network and Amplify your Superintendency.