Harris School Solutions
Harris School Solutions

Recognizing and Exiting Survival Mode in Education

Your family is enjoying a lovely picnic in the park. Suddenly, the wind picks up embers from another family’s barbecue, and sparks fly to dry grass near you. Everyone drops their food and runs over to stomp out the flames. You extinguish all the blazes, narrowly averting a wildfire. Unfortunately, the food is ruined, the grass is scorched, and your family is stressed 

That scenario exemplifies going into survival mode to manage a crisis. You jump into action. You don’t pause to discuss fire scienceWhen the fire is out, you clean up the mess and get new food for your hungry family. 

Survival mode is necessary to mitigate damage during a crisisYou must make tough decisions and follow through rapidly. The pandemic put many, if not all districts, in survival mode. At edInsight, we appreciate your decisive action to educate students safelyWe are here to support your ability to make wise decisions.  

Most of our recent blogs focus on tips about educating during the time of COVID. This blog encourages you to consider the future as you transition out of survival mode into repairing the damage incurred. Survival mode is not a natural place for visionary leaders. Since you are reading a blog about creating future success, consider yourself a visionary leader 

Pandemic Damage 

Everyone is stressed by constant changes and a lack of control. School-level educators are drowning from work overload trying to meet all their students’ needs and fulfill other expectations. A teacher posted to her friends, “There is nothing quite like the nauseating sting of anxiety from muddling through one monumental task, then sifting through the pages of emails you didn’t have time to take care of only to find out that you’re even further away from catching up. I give up… for today.”   

Parents are pulling their kids out of the public school system at alarming rates, stretching thin budgets even more. At least some parents chose to leave because they worried about their children struggling academically and socially. Parents of children with previously existing academic challenges were especially frustrated by their distance learning experience in the spring. EdChoice published a report detailing parental concerns by demographic data. 

Distance learning exposed weaknesses for the most vulnerable populations. Even teachers doing face-to-face instruction had to change their typical methodologies to enforce social distancing practices. Teachers are reporting that more students have more significant learning gaps than ever before. A high school teacher with many Title 1 students said that fifty percent of her students are failing. A fifth-grade distance-learning teacher lamented about a depressingly low student engagement. Another teacher admitted that she feels disconnected from her students and doesn’t have a firm grasp of what students know.  

It is up to district leaders to provide these dedicated educators with the tools they need to do their job well. 

Recognizing and Exiting Survival Mode 

While quick decisions and actions are necessary during a crisis, it comes at a cost. Some people call survival mode “slow death mode” because it is a downhill slide into reactionary management. Focusing on disaster mitigation leaves precious little energy and resources for repairing damage, systematic planning, and creating a culture of improvement.  

Teams in survival mode often exhibit the following traits: 

  • Not investing in systems and training 
  • Spending most of the time reacting to urgent situations  
  • Ignoring issues previously considered a high priority 
  • Overwhelming exhaustion and stress
  • Not tracking success indicators 

When a crisis lasts for a long time, such as the pandemic, teams must be careful not to become stuck in a reactionary mode rather than a proactive modeThe lack of a systemic approach to management and resource allocation eventually puts students’ future academic growth in jeopardy.  

Experts warn that pivoting out of survival mode is a gradual and intentional process. Some members of your team may be resistant to the changePerhaps they think survival mode is still necessary or they feel energized in times of crisis. Listen to their concerns and value their skillsets because their energy and insights are valuable.  

However, as a visionary, people are relying on your talent for seeing a path toward a successful future. 

The Impact of Survival Mode on MTSS  

If your district’s Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) deteriorated in survival mode, you are not aloneImplementing a robust MTSS system requires district leaders to analyze and plan carefullyDistricts that invested in MTSS before the pandemic avoided much of the damage, but no one remained unscathed. 

If your district did not have a strong MTSS before the pandemic, it will need one after. The sooner your team starts implementing MTSS measures, the better for student outcomes. 

MTSS improves student achievement, closes learning gaps, and supports teachers. It focuses educators on the highest priority needs, increasing effectiveness and reducing stress.  

Repairing MTSS Requires Data  

As you transition out of survival mode, you need to know where students and teachers need support to create a road map to achieve desired student learning outcomes. Start by gathering pertinent data and analyzing it carefully. A comprehensive data dashboard makes those tasks much quicker and easier.  

Teachers teach most effectively when they quickly and easily see students’ growth. School administrators implement MTSS with Fidelity when they track student progress for large groups, sub-groups, and individuals. The ability to track progress gives administrators valuable information about which interventions to prioritize. A data dashboard provides teachers with specific information for improved communication with parents and students about progress and the next steps. Clear directives are vital to empower stakeholders to act towards the goal of every student meeting standards. 

edInsight Supports MTSS and Future Success 

Most people think of edInsight as merely a data dashboard. While our data dashboard is an incredible productivity tool, we are so much more. Our trainers go beyond teaching how to use the software; they coach how to think of data in new ways. You choose the criteria and benchmarks to support your specific MTSS approachEvery aspect is customizable. 

The software provides a way to include informal teacher assessments and formal district assessments in data analysis. It reduces teacher workload because they enter assessments directly into the system. The district software connects to the edInsight data warehouse, automating reporting and analysis.  

When your district is ready to plan for success, our products make an excellent investment in student growthSay good-bye to trying to make sense of piles of paperwork and lost folders. Say hello to data-driven collaborative decision-making. 

Click here to learn more about how our team can help convert your vision into reality.