5 Education Lessons from 2020 We'll Never Forget

There is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year. As part of the educational community, we experienced many unprecedented challenges that required swift action in order to continue supporting our students and teachers. Being forced out of our comfort zone gave us new opportunities and showed how flexible we can be. We learned important education lessons from 2020 that will stick with us for the long haul. It may not have been pretty, but growth almost never is. The hope is that we, as a learning community, come out stronger, and I believe we are on that pathway.

We asked our teachers to share what they learned in 2020. These important lessons can—and should— be applied to future learning and life scenarios. This Edutopia article shares some similar and additional sentiments.

  • Communication is key. We more fully realize the value of frequent and flexible communication. The events of 2020 forced us to find new ways to communicate to our families, our students, and even ourselves. We learned new methods (TikTok, anyone?), tried new languages, set new goals, and were reminded how to pick up the phone again. Never has clear and consistent communication in multiple formats been this essential to our students’ success.
  • Transferable knowledge is more important than grades. Student learning can come in many forms, and we’ve had to be more creative in our delivery of that knowledge. We are also more aware of student buy-in to that knowledge. Students must find our themes and concepts valuable; they must see how they can use this information outside of the classroom. Formative assessments might be more essential than summative assessments. Student mastery is prioritized over one-and-done grading. If we want our students to be successful in life, we must ensure they have the content knowledge and know how to use it.
  • We must prioritize connection and compassion over content. We want our students to have as much knowledge as we can give, but our students cannot learn if they are not mentally and emotionally connected and invested. Throughout this school year, we’ve become more aware of our student’s home lives, their personal challenges, and their mental health. We’ve had to adapt our traditional classroom rules and expectations to provide flexible arrangements. Social emotional learning is taking a priority in our classrooms. Most importantly, we realize that we must attend to the child before we can positively impact the student.  
  • Supplementary services offered by schools are essential for our students. Perhaps the actual lesson here is that we recognize that these services are critical, and they should be moved from the school system to more community-based approaches. When a student looks for healthy meals, mental support, and socialization, our communities should have plans in place to facilitate these needs.
  • Respect for teachers has never been more deserved than it is now. In 2020, the term “essential” took on new life. Those we find essential should be paid, protected, and supported top down and bottom up. At the very least, take the time to thank those deemed essential and show them how much their work matters.

As we reflect on the events of 2020, like every life lesson, it is important to learn from our challenges and take strides to ensure we can make the most of what those lessons taught us. We hope these key takeaways will be prevalent in your classroom during this unprecedented year.

Article written by Kiersten Teitelbaum

Kiersten Teitelbaum
Kiersten Teitelbaum serves as the Director of Curriculum and Academics for WorldStrides. She holds an M.Ed. in the Social Foundations of Education is currently completing her Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Virginia. Her doctoral research reinforces the WorldStrides mission of experiential learning and sustained engagement through travel. Her background includes coaching and teaching an environmental education and leadership through an experiential learning field course. Mrs. Teitelbaum has provided professional development to teachers in Canada, Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Mexico and across the United States.