5 Things to Be Thankful for This School Year

The first few months of the 2020–2021 school year have been more than a bit “unusual.” However, in the run-up to Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, it is quite clear that we have much to be thankful for — even in the midst of what can sometimes feel like chaos. At MDR, we are pausing for a moment to think about what we are grateful for in the education community.

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We are thankful for innovative education companies — hundreds of which offered their products and services to schools for free at the start of this year’s school closures. In addition, many of them were required to pivot and think about how they work with schools and what they provide to them in new ways. A poll conducted by WeAreTeachers earlier this year gave vendors great insights into how to forge new relationships with educators and schools and they quickly responded. Plexiglass and disinfectant are now a high priority for schools where students went back face-to-face and vendors had to think about how to quickly and economically provide them. Computer hardware companies scrambled to provide schools with the thousands of devices that were needed for remote learning and Wi-Fi providers developed ways to inexpensively — and sometimes free of cost — provide connectivity to hundreds of thousands of families.

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Students give us great reason to be thankful this year and always. They have proven to us how resilient they are and how they are able to change course midstream when necessary. They’ve learned to wear masks when required and how to participate in distance learning. Students have also shared their feelings with us when things are difficult and, most importantly, have kept us laughing with their unique ways of looking at new situations and with their warmth and smiles.

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We are grateful for school leaders who have worked tirelessly to navigate unchartered waters and develop creative approaches for school scheduling and ensuring educational equity for all students — no matter where they are learning. Superintendents and principals worked to ensure that students had access to school nutrition programs during remote learning and came up with new ways to build and reinforce the home-school connection. In addition, school leaders and teachers alike quickly recognized that, as students grapple with the family, economic and learning impacts of COVID-19, more support for social emotional learning is needed and are integrating chances to develop that mindset into instruction.

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Parents, who have been on the frontlines of remote learning, are a reason to be thankful. They are dealing with seemingly constantly changing school schedules, adding “supervising remote learning” to their things-to-do lists, often while working from home themselves. Yet, they have kept their sense of humor as much as possible as well as their commitment to ensuring that their kids stay on track in school.

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Most of all, we are thankful for teachers. 2020 has had a big impact on the lives of teachers and, yet, they have kept their positive attitudes and remained patient in the face of teaching endless Zoom classes. We have teachers around the country who are so committed to their students that they are visiting the homes (socially distanced, of course) of those who are having difficulties participating in remote learning. We also have creative elementary school teachers who are back in school and have designed students’ plexiglass-covered learning stations to look like trucks and train cars and other inviting spaces to create an environment that is as stress-free and engaging as possible. Meanwhile, teachers who are teaching remotely are employing creative solutions to engage their students, such as virtual Bitmoji classrooms where students can see assignments, documents, websites and even the teachers’ avatars.  We are particularly grateful for teachers!

No one can say that any of this has been easy. But the bright spots are the dedication, creativity and commitment of all members of the education community. In the midst of this crisis and uncertainty, we are already reflecting about the lessons learned and hope that this year will change education for the better in the future.

When we reflect on that, we have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

As we move forward as a community, it is critical to rely on evolving insights, feedback and learnings to communicate with educators and continue to fulfill their needs as circumstances continue to change. Research and data will continue to help us all answer timely questions, such as “what resources are schools still lacking?” and “what do educators think schools will look like in a post-COVID world?” Let us know what other important questions you need answered to inform your marketing plans.

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