What We Have Learned from COVID-19
By Brenda Vatthauer, Hutchinson Middle School Principal
Leading during the COVID-19 virus has been challenging for school leaders, teachers, staff, parents and our community on many levels. Despite the uncertainty, our schools and community have rallied and found many ways to continue to positively impact students and help them in ways that extend far beyond the distance learning educational experience. This includes providing food, basic necessities, childcare, the power of relationships and a new daily routine. Educators understand the importance of innovation or trying something new to create better results and teachers have been willing to take that risk. Our community should be proud of the efforts to come together in joint partnership to support students and families with distance learning.
During this time there also have been many questions posed to school leaders about “What does next year look like?” This question is the most challenging to answer right now. First, the data and ripple effect of COVID-19 changes daily and schools must follow the guidelines of our MN State Health officials, Governor Walz and the Commissioner of Education. How do you prepare to lead for an unpredictable future, whether you are an educator, parent or community partner?
As schools, we should be proud of the work we have done during COVID-19 reaching out to many students with creative approaches. (No one predicted back in August that we would be educating our students through distance learning for a full 12 weeks). What are the essential learnings for each course? What are student needs? What supports are needed? How can we connect with face to face interactions? As educators, there was stress, anxiety, unfamiliar methods yet a “can do” attitude that each adult had within them. There were days we didn’t have all the answers and that was okay. The key was developing the right questions that could be asked for greater learning together.
As parents, we have had to be flexible and adaptable. Parents learned quickly to be ready for changes and when they happened, parents and caregivers embraced them. Parents handled adversity to support learning at home, even when they worked a full-time job from home, and supported student learning also. Parents also worked out of the home and arrived home to help support their son or daughter in the evening hours. Hutchinson parents have been extremely adaptable. Parents have modeled core principles of education and learning through their home support. Thank-you to all the amazing parents in our Hutchinson community.
Our community has responded with intentional direction and compliance. No single person or business hasn’t had their share of challenges. As a result, the best way to learn together and navigate has been to connect with others (distantly), listen, ask questions and see what can be applied to make the best out of an unasked-for COVID-19 situation. Our community has had to take on different perspectives and accelerate a rate of slow growth, following guidance from state officials. Through the process, our community will be stronger. Hope doesn’t create change, action does. Everyone within the Hutchinson community has something of value to share as we are all connected within this rapid change.
I encourage everyone to think about how they can grow from this process and become better and then apply that moving forward. I have learned how to navigate through this struggle and move forward to a better future focusing on what I can control. There is great hope for our future, the future of our young scholars and the future of Hutchinson schools. Through the connections and stronger relationships developed through COVID-19, we all have adapted and changed. We can choose to go through an experience or grow through it. Change is also an opportunity to do something different and amazing. As an educational entity, we have put our best foot forward through the twelve-week distance learning experience. We will finish the school year stronger together. Hutchinson – We are all in this Together!