COVID-19: Three Phases of Response

The work educators are doing in response to COVID-19 is heavy and so important. I’m on the front lines in my regional service agency. Supporting over 2500 teachers transition to teaching online in a matter of days is hard work! My tears started at 4:30 on Thursday, and didn’t stop until I woke up Friday morning. My Governor (Evers in Wisconsin) has closed schools indefinitely. Panic looms everywhere.

I took a step back to create a plan and to think. If I am going to be of service to my region and to Modern Learners during this time, I am going to need a conceptual framework to understand the magnitude of the moment.

My preliminary thinking starts with three phases of response to COVID-19. I’ll flush each phase out more as I live in this space awhile. I’m sharing now because this might help you formulate your response to COVID-19.

Phase 1 is Contingency

School leaders, teachers, and parents everywhere are operating in this phase right now. School leaders are creating long term contingency plans for every level of operations in their school. Contingency plans in most cases hinge on state and federal governments, broadband providers, supply chain management of goods. Everything is in flux. I’m a bit fearful that as contingency plans are created for teaching and learning online, no one is planning for staff and students to get sick. That will also happen. The contingency plan must be set in order to get to phase two, but information used to create the contingency plans has been rapidly changing on an hourly basis. Even after things settle in a bit, the contingency plan will be operation for several weeks or maybe even months. The long term impact of this virus needs to be considered in contingency planning too.

Phase 2 is Continuity

The goal is to get to continuity of learning and operations. Continuity will be sought as the magnitude of the pandemic begins to be understood. Systems will go through significant disruption during this time, and new and better ways of operating will be actualized. In a few months, what continuity will be sought? School the way it was before the pandemic? School how it was during the pandemic? or a blend of both…something new?

Phase 3 is Transcendence

A new normal will come from this if there are people leading the system through contingency and continuity with intention. School leaders, politicians, and educators at large must seize this opportunity to create new systems that consciously focus on learning. The system must solve for inequity before it is created. The system must shift the narrative from achievement to learning. The system must co-create with students and communities what will become the new school. I want to be part of a system that does just that. Do you?

**I feel a need to provide the definition I working from for this phase. Transcendence is the act of rising above something to a superior state. … Transcendence comes from the Latin prefix trans-, meaning “beyond,” and the word scandare, meaning “to climb.” When you achieve transcendence, you have gone beyond ordinary limitations.

Modern Learners Community supports Transcendence

There has never been a better time to reimagine school with a focus on learning. And… Even though the urgency to change is here, acknowledging what phase people and systems are in is important.  It is time to design a new system to transcend to. When we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, school will have changed. It will have become something new.

When you are ready to clarify your commitment to designing something new, the Modern Learners Community will be here for you. One of our members, Scott McLeod shared similar thinking on his blog Dangerously Irrelevant. Be sure to check it out.

One more thing…I’d love to know what you think of the phases. I’d love you to push back, so I can find more clarity around them. Drop me a line or two in the comments.

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