Leading, Teaching, & Learning in the Moment: Sustaining Excellent Teaching During a Global Pandemic

Tonia Holmes-Sutton, NBCTOctober 1, 2020

The number of teaching colleagues retiring or simply resigning as schools reconvene throughout the country has been sobering. The news has arrived via social media as millions of our colleagues ready classrooms for face-to-face, hybrid, and remote instruction, preparing to receive students. It’s difficult to believe that only six months ago school doors were shuttered due to the still-growing coronavirus pandemic. Remote learning immediately ensued. Teachers and families, immersed in new partnerships with one another as we navigated our students’ academic and social-emotional needs; wondered and worried, anxiously waiting for reopening plans and implementation guidance and strategies from state departments of education and school districts. Tensions built and played out in board meetings, news outlets, and social media as diverse perspectives diverged even more. And, special sessions of state legislatures were held to address budget deficits due to the global COVID-19 crisis.

States and districts have announced a range of plans; some detail remote teaching and learning, others provide hybrid models, while still others compel face-to-face instruction. The complexity of states’ education systems overwhelms Americans. Families and teachers seek clarity in social media groups and via virtual town halls. Questions persist. Uncertainty lingers like a dense, unexplainable haze, and teachers recommit themselves for schooling reimagined, re-envisioned, and rebooted.  Yet, as so many things change, much remains the same – and the tenets of excellent teaching, as framed within The Five Core Propositions, persists as promises that students, families, and teachers embrace as perpetual.    

  • As teachers, we commit to our students and families, acknowledging that each and every student can learn. We commit to ensuring equitable learning opportunities are afforded to our students whether instruction is delivered virtually or face-to-face. We build authentic, meaningful, trusting relationships with students and our families, knowing that relationships are the critical foundation to teaching and learning – connecting through the weighted distance of social isolation.
  • As accomplished instructional leaders, masters of our content and specialized knowledge, we pursue professional learning opportunities to contend with the unprecedented circumstance of teaching during a pandemic and in the throes of national protests against social and racial injustices. Assuming professional responsibility for providing a just and equitable education to each and every one of our students, we seek a deeper understanding of our knowledge and embark upon new learnings to better facilitate and convey subject matter to our students. We build the bridges that permit development of our students’ critical, analytical skills.
  • As teachers, we recognize the challenges of assessing and monitoring student learning during COVID-19 and commit to employing differentiated assessment measures to inform teaching and learning in our ‘new reality’. We collaborate with families, colleagues, and administrative leadership to discern how to address the challenges of student engagement, meaningful student learning, and educational equity in the face of the digital divide and disparate learning access and opportunity.
  • As critical thinkers and problem solvers, we engage in lifelong learning. We consistently reflect on our instructional and leadership practices, especially in the midst of current crises; adapting, modifying, and transforming our instruction to meet the needs of each and every student entrusted to our charge.
  • As teachers, we expand our learning communities as we teach and lead, connecting and engaging with ‘new’ colleagues thousands of miles away in schools, districts, and states across the country.  We collaborate on instructional design and policy, curriculum development, and professional learning, effectively, positively impacting student learning and achievement in rural, urban, and suburban communities in national contexts.

The coronavirus pandemic, while significantly impacting the lives of our students, families, and teachers, and changing our education profession, has strengthened our individual and collective resolve to provide an excellent and equitable education that is responsive to the needs of each and every student and family. We are schooling reimagined, refined through and by the circumstances and the experiences of the crisis – sustaining excellence in the face of a pandemic.  Join us as part of the National Board Network of Accomplished Minoritized Educators (National Board NAME) as we commit to being the leaders our students, our families, and our profession demands.

Tonia Holmes-Sutton, NBCT

Tonia Holmes-Sutton, Ed.D., NBCT, is a member of the NBPTS Board of Directors and is leading the way in education advocacy in Nevada. She is a twenty-year veteran teacher and leads as the State Director for Teach Plus Nevada. She is the 2020 Alumna of the Year at UNLV College of Education. Additionally, Holmes-Sutton served as a former Governor-appointed member on the Nevada State Board of Education. She presently serves as a Board Director for WestEd, a Board Trustee for the National Teachers Hall of Fame, a member of the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority Board, and as a founding member of the National Network of Accomplished Minoritized Educators. Please follow Tonia on Twitter at @tholmessutton