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Challenges Create Opportunities

 "Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." - Joshua J. Marine

I love working with educators. Even though I am often the facilitator of learning, I always seek out opportunities to put myself into the shoes of those doing the day-to-day work and then use this as an opportunity to reflect on my practice. The other day I was working with Davis Schools in Utah on a hybrid learning model where educators would be teaching face-to-face and remote learners at the same time. My partner in crime was Belinda Kuck, who is the Director of Teaching and Learning. We have been working closely over the years on personalized learning support for teachers and administrators in the district. I learn so much from her every time we chat.

The premise of the work we kicked off was helping educators and districts manage time and utilize effective pedagogy during these challenging times. It is essential to recognize the fact that a hybrid model was never intended for K-12 education. Thus, providing support in the form of professional learning is something that all districts and schools should be investing in, whether internally or externally. Belinda began each session with an overview of the pilot program where educators would receive both a technology package (digital camera, laptop, microphone, tripod) and on-going professional learning from the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE) facilitated by yours truly. The best part of this was how she told the educators that they would be empowered to provide feedback to the district on how to implement the hybrid model best. It's awesome when the voices and ideas of those doing the work are valued.

After the pilot program's premise was shared, there was one more piece that Belinda assigned before I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. She asked each person to share a "peach" and a "pit" from their experiences during the pandemic. At first, I wasn't really sure what she was trying to accomplish with this analogy, but there was some quick clarification. This was a good thing as I had visions of Beverly Hills 90210 in my head. For those of you who never indulged in this 90's classic, there was a restaurant called The Peach Pit that Brandon and the crew frequented. Don't judge me for enjoying the show.

The peach represented something sweet, such as a practice that evolved over the past couple of months. Many of the responses centered around integrating technology, utilizing Canvas more effectively, getting to know students better than in the past, and shifting to more personalized strategies.  The pit referred to hardships and challenges.  It wasn't surprising that there were more pit responses than sweet.  The most common challenges revolved around time, mental health, student engagement, and a learning curve when it came to the purposeful use of technology. 

After reflecting on the sessions, something dawned on me. If it weren't for the pit, we would never have the peach. As much as it can be an annoyance when we are enjoying eating the peach, the giant seed in the middle leads to the tree that will eventually bear the fruit. The point I am trying to make in all of this is that challenges, as much as they cause stress and anxiety, lead to opportunities to change for the better. In the face of adversity, educators have and continue to innovate in ways that will benefit learners for generations. It is vital to view challenges as the pit. When they are overcome, it will be such a sweet feeling and hopefully as satisfying as eating a peach. If you don't like eating peaches, then use this analogy with any fruit that has seeds.  Keep up the excellent work, everyone!