Hope for the best, but it’s time to start planning for the worst

By Kaci Coats, The Collaborative for Exceptional Education

A teacher recently shared with me her current plan for delivering services online and she ended it all by throwing her hands up in the air and saying “it’s probably not a good idea, but we only have a few weeks left in the year so I’m just gonna go with it.” And it was at this moment, I put on my “Debbie-Downer” hat and said what the Governor is beginning to express in his recent updates….worst case scenario is not that we are closed through the end of the school year but instead, we could be online or experiencing intermittent closures through next year.  In fact, I've shared all the possible scenarios that I’ve collected from the recent conversations I have had about what next year could look like in the graphic above.

Best case scenario is that we do get to go “back to normal”, but unfortunately, more and more I am finding this to be highly unlikely. There is a high probability that we will have some students who will require an online option because they are deemed medically fragile or have an underlying health condition (i.e. asthma) that makes them more at risk. So the resounding takeaway here is that now is not the time to throw our hands in the air and take a “wait it out” approach because, as depressing as it sounds, there might not be an “out” to this.  

This is not easy news to hear and many of you have already told me that you did not sign up for online teaching, but our kids need you now, more than ever. And it is because of them that I am encouraging us to shift our mindset and see this time as a period of trial and error, or as Tina Vidovich from D49 has been calling it, an Action Research period. In this period of time you are trying out new things, seeing what works and what doesn’t work, and refining your practice of online learning.  All efforts put in during the Action Research period will only result in a stronger instructional model (in any form) when we return to school in the fall. 

If you embrace this idea, what can you prioritize in this refinement period?

  • Parent & student relationships
  • Facilitating independence so that students are developing skills that help them be a more independent online learner
  • Finding the blend of synchronous (live virtual sessions) and asynchronous (assigned independent work) models that work for your students
  • Developing a plan for collecting data to see if what you are doing is working and if students are growing

And all the while that you’re challenging yourself to adopt 1, 2 or 4 of the above priorities, I hope you can also keep finding the hidden gems that bring you joy in your work and personal lives...the sweet relationships you are building with your parents, the new skills you are developing to engage your students, and the chance to use the bathroom and eat your lunch whenever you want to! 

I absolutely know that this is hard work so to help you in your refinement process, the Collaborative is offering webinars and coaching that can help you develop skills and provide you with ongoing thought-partnership.  But please don’t do this work alone...reach out if you need ideas, resources, to vent, and especially to celebrate!

Your thought-partner,

Kaci Coats, kcoats@exceptionalcollaborative.org
Executive Director, Collaborative for Exceptional Education



Some of you may be thinking that you don’t know where to start, well we are here to help! Please register for these today to save your place:

  • Facilitating Independence - Monday 4/27/2020 3:30-4:30 PM MDT. This webinar is being offered to provide parents, paras, and teachers guidance as they strategically fade supports to help their students become more independent in accessing technology and taking part in academic and daily living activities. We are excited to have Jessica Rusin, Director of the Multi-Intensive Center Program at STRIVE Prep Ruby Hill, joining to share resources and tips that have been successful for her students during their transition to online learning. Register Here
  • How Do I Know I’m Being Effective? The Art of Monitoring Goal Progress Online - Monday 5/4/2020 4:30-5:30 PM MDT. Most of us have not taught virtually before let alone tried to provide services to students on virtual platforms.  So how do we know if it is working? What data can we be collecting to help drive decision-making during this time? In this webinar, we have invited teachers to share what they have learned about assessing progress during online learning and how they know they are being effective. Register Here

In partnership with CDE, we are excited to be presenting a Topic Based Webinar:

  • From Survival to Quality: Refining Your Online Model to Increase Student Access to High-Quality Education - Tuesday 5/12/2020 11:00 AM-12:30 PM MDT. This training will highlight key components that schools are addressing as they work to increase the quality of their programming while implementing distance learning. During this training, you will also hear from school representatives who will share how they are using this time to refine their distance learning plans. Register Here


The Collaborative has consultants ready and willing to work with your team as they refine their specialized and data driven instruction.  Through online observations, review of materials, and thought-partnership on how to address IEP goals and services, we can help you as you begin to refine your approach to providing high quality online programming for your students. Contact us today!


Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need a thought partner! We will also be hosting opportunities to receive support and to collaborate with other special educators and related service providers weekly. Contact us to get added to the calendar invite and to get the Zoom links to these meetings!

  • Special Education Teacher Support Group Weekly on Mondays 1:00-2:00 PM MDT
  • Collaborative Planning for Online Services: Mental Health Providers  Weekly on Tuesdays 2:00-3:00 PM MDT 
  • Collaborative Planning for Online Services: Leading Schools Through COVID-19 Every other week on Mondays 3:30-4:30 PM MDT 


Links to recent state guidance:


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