The 2019-2020 school year made history. The unanticipated worldwide school closure required us to use teaching muscles we never knew we had, and at a level that strained us. It prompted ingenuity and shaped teachers to become more instructionally robust. This period of time will be researched for how our intellectual acuity was intensely challenged; for the decisions we had to make in the moment, and in unfamiliar territory.
According to educational researchers Korn and Ferry, “Learning agility is about knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do.” In teaching, we exercise our learning agility every day. In the past months, the world had the opportunity to watch our dexterity, and we learned about our own cognitive flexibility. Without a doubt, every teacher’s mental agility was stretched beyond measure.
What did we learn? How might our new agility be applied to our cognitive abilities permanently? We realized we could not do this alone. Whatever our thoughts and opinions were about professional learning communities or coaching before COVID-19, they may be different today. We discovered from this pandemic, the value of learning with others. Together, we learned how to adjust practices we know, and acquire practices we didn’t know. Advice was invaluable and might have been found from teachers we never met or teachers from different subjects and contexts.
Professional learning communities and coaching are about crowdsourcing collegial knowledge. Our peers can provide guidance that helps us recognize that our actions matter and have an important impact on student performance. This translates into the confidence to be agile learners while teaching. Agility and confidence can propel us to engage in new learning, and to adapt to further our skills. We found that experience and expertise can be suppressed without collegiality. We all benefit from exercising our teaching muscles with teams in professional learning communities and with a “personal trainer” in coaching.