The COVID-19 pandemic put a magnifying glass on educational practices and systems that have long been upheld, and sometimes, rarely questioned. It opened the door to conversations about technology access, equity and inclusion, the importance of social-emotional learning, and much more. While some of these topics have much greater systemic implications and cannot be tackled by one teacher alone, there are some lessons learned from the pandemic that educators can take with them into the next school year and beyond.

5 Lessons Learned from the Pandemic for Teachers to Apply This Year

1. Having the right tools makes a huge difference.

The uncertainty brought forth by the pandemic made it necessary for schools to update their technology solutions, and drove teachers to learn and implement new digital tools. When schools weren’t able to provide the needed tech support for instruction, both students and teachers felt the impact. (More on this in a minute!) 

Whether you’re moving back to in-person instruction or continuing with a hybrid model, one lesson learned from the pandemic is that having flexible tools at your disposal can help lighten the instructional burden. Some teachers are looking forward to continuing the use of digital materials in the classroom, as they can make it easier to follow along as you present live. A tool like Easel by TpT, for example, can be used both in person and online. Teachers can demo digital resources live, while students work alongside at their desks in person or at home. The suite of tools also allows for differentiated instruction with the ability to edit pages, move images and text, annotate, and add images.

Put it into action: At the beginning of each week, plan out what you’ll need for each lesson and take some time to familiarize yourself with the tools at your disposal. Do a quick “tech check” every morning to minimize the chances of a glitch.

Easel-Ready Resources

Word Work for Upper Elementary / No-prep Vocabulary Center by The Paisley Owl
3rd-7th Grade

First Week of School and First Day of School Activities by Grade One Snapshots
K-1st Grade

Reading Response Menus Across the Year {3rd Grade CCSS-Aligned} by 3rd Grade Thoughts
3rd Grade

2. Sometimes, less is more.

With constant changes to instructional models and daily schedules, those extra “nice-to-have” teachable moments or activities were likely few and far between during remote and hybrid learning. This forced teachers to drill down to the most important skills that needed to be taught to maximize the time they had with their students. By focusing on what matters, it allows educators to spend time really driving home the most essential concepts — and that’s a lesson learned that can be advantageous inside the classroom, too.

Put it into action: Before each lesson, define the most important standards and skills that need to be taught and focus on those. Of course, if you have time for additional material, great! But don’t fret if you don’t get to every worksheet or activity you’ve planned.

3. Have a backup plan…always.

If there’s one thing the pandemic made clear to teachers, it’s that things will not always go as planned. Educators learned to loosen the grips of control and stay nimble as schools closed, instructional models shifted, and technology occasionally failed. The takeaway? Always be flexible and have a backup plan.

In the case of an incidental technology glitch or unplanned disruption to your instruction, build an arsenal of extra activities and worksheets to keep students engaged and learning. Having some go-to resources to tap quickly will prevent students from getting distracted and will give you some time to figure out your next move.

Put it into action: Set aside a folder of extra resources — ideally, that can be used both digitally and in-person — each week so you can pull one out when you need it. If you’re using Easel by TpT, you can prep your lessons on the platform in advance, then when you’re ready, use the one-click assign feature to get students started.

Extra Worksheets & Activities

Fractions Decimals Percents (Fun Games Worksheets and Activities) by Miss Giraffe
3rd-5th Grade

Superhero Theme Lines of Symmetry Activity – Fun Math Art Worksheets by Pink Cat Studio
K-3rd Grade

Alphabet Worksheets for Fun Alphabet Practice by Lindsay Keegan
PreK-1st Grades

4. Equity and inclusion need to be a priority.

One of the most evident issues highlighted by the pandemic was the digital divide. Students with less access to technology — oftentimes belonging to marginalized populations such as low-income communities, emerging bilinguals, and people of color —  were greatly affected. According to the Education Trust, 42% of families of color and 50% of low-income families lack the technology necessary to access online learning.

While this disparity is not up to teachers alone to solve, as students head back into the classroom, it’s vital that educators create an equitable learning environment. Before you dive into planning your back-to-school curriculum, reflect on your own biases. Brainstorming your own blindspots can help you become more effective in supporting every student that walks into your classroom. 

Put it into action: In addition to self reflection, teachers can also take stock of their curriculum and ensure that it features a diverse range of perspectives. As a starting point, check out our Teach for Justice Collection of resources to help further discussions about social injustice and support every student. Educators can also ensure that every student is able to follow along by adopting equitable instructional methods — using a variety of media, including transcripts on videos, reading instructions aloud, and assisting students with technology they may not be familiar with.

Resources for an Inclusive Classroom

Poetry Around the World: An In-Depth Poetry Study by Cynthia Amoah
8th-10th Grade

Building Classroom Community: An Anti-Racist Approach to Establishing a Social Justice Classroom by Falicia O’Mard
2nd-4th Grade

Justice Jots by Life is Lit
6th-8th Grade

5. Relationships matter.

Despite being able to interact only through a screen, the pandemic shed a bright light on the importance of relationships. Social interaction is a key motivator of enhanced learning and the development of important life skills.

Students may have suffered emotionally having not been able to socialize with their peers during the pandemic. Take time this school year to really get to know your students and give them the opportunity to get to know one another. One of the biggest lessons we all learned from the pandemic is that relationships with students, other teachers, parents, administration — and yourself! — matter. 

Put it into action: Set aside a solid chunk of time each day during the first month of the back-to-school season to get to know students and form strong connections with your peers. (And be sure to check out this post for more relationship-building ideas!)

Discover more digital resources on TpT to help you navigate the return to the classroom. If you have a TpT School Access subscription, click here to access resources.