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Superintendent finds the effort and energy that is dedicated in this 'new normal' has been awe-inspiring to her.

Since mid-March, the phrase "new normal" has applied to so many different aspects of our lives -- both personally and professionally -- but one that is a far-reaching stand out is how COVID-19 has impacted our educational system.

From the time of the initial closures in the spring, to the most recent adjustments in the case rate metrics, there have been innumerable variables that families, students, staff members and administrators have had to adapt to – and right when we were starting to understand how to move key events and processes to the outdoors, the wildfires happened. Over and over, the unexpected events we have faced throughout this year have changed K-12 education as we know it.

There is absolutely no question that families have been asked to engage in their children's education in ways we likely never imagined -- and then, having to identify ways to juggle their own careers and work schedules with their child's schooling takes the unimaginable and complex even one step further. Students have to be "in" school from their homes, day cares, a grandparent's house -- just to name a few -- as families are finding ways to create learning environments in the most unexpected of places.

Students have been physically isolated from their teachers and other adults who care so much about them and their education; they have had to struggle with the impacts of not being able to interact in-person with their friends on the playground at recess, during lunch and in the halls. Yet through it all, our Sherwood School District staff (teachers, classified staff and administrators) have worked so diligently behind the scenes, and in front, to do the very best for our students.

Several weeks ago it became clear to me that one of the best ways for me to see what Comprehensive Distance Learning (CDL) looks like in a practical, real-time way was to shadow our school staff as they planned and prepared for lessons, and as the lessons and classes were happening.

Heather CordieTo that end, I extended that request to all of our staff members and asked for volunteers for a job shadow experience. I was excited to see responses coming in from all levels -- from teachers and classified staff, alike.

Over the course of the last several weeks, I have been in many classrooms -- both virtual and actual ones -- as I have participated in and observed the planning, preparation and execution of lessons all across the district. Some teachers have chosen to teach their students from their actual classrooms, while others are teaching from their living rooms; in all cases, the effort and energy that is dedicated to this "new normal" has been awe-inspiring to me.

Equally inspiring has been the job shadow experiences with some of our Instructional Assistants as they interact, guide, and provide support to students in one-on-one scenarios.

During these opportunities that I have been given I have also been able to work in breakout rooms with small groups of students. Whether they were working on calculating area using centimeters, or engaging in a simulation around the Spanish-American War, those interactions have helped me to understand more clearly some of the challenges that our students are currently facing -- for example, the struggles with Zoom and Chromebooks which often require students to turn their cameras off in order for audio to be more clear.

The job shadows I have engaged in have taught me a great deal about the intricacies and challenges of CDL; they have solidified my understanding of the struggles it presents for our staff, students, and their families; they have affirmed the grit and resilience that is required by all of us; and they have solidified my awareness of how heart-breaking it is to see a five-year-old muting and unmuting his screen at key moments of interaction.

Above all, and especially highlighted during this holiday season, I am reminded of the strength of our community when we are working together to overcome challenges, and how patience and caring hearts can help us all get through this, together.


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