Leadership from Home in the Time of Covid-19
A MiddleWeb Blog
The strange new world we find ourselves a part of is perplexing to say the least. Honestly, it’s hard to know where to begin this post. Educators, if you’re anything like me, you’ve experienced a wide range of emotions since schools closed.
Most of the time, I feel hopeful and am well aware that none of this is in my control and that worry will not help anything. Most of the time I am calm, and when I feel the tingle of panic approaching, a few deep breaths and a short walk keep me on track. Most of the time.
But, as I shared in a tweet, I have serious concerns and not just about my students learning at home, having enough to eat, and staying safe. I have concerns for my own ability to stay motivated. Many of you, like me, need the energy from the kids we serve to keep us going. For people like us, not having daily interactions with kids is a terrifying prospect.
*Remind self: It’s not in your control.*
A Letter to My Staff
As I often do in my Heart of the School Blog, I want to share an email I recently sent to my staff. Maybe you have found something similar in your inbox. Maybe not. Either way, I hope you find this one helpful.
There are a great many questions surrounding school closures, and most have no answers at this time. There are four things I’d like us to think about.
1. Keep calm and share that calm with children and families. The idea behind closures is to “flatten the curve” such that we don’t have medical shortages for those who might get really sick from COVID-19. We are working together as Americans to slow the spread. This video (below) explains well. NOTE: I apologize in advance for the doctor’s embarrassing reference to Mork and Mindy. Sheesh, lady, have a little decorum!
2. Plan for online teaching and learning. I will work with the admin team and PLC facilitators on this. Please get your class set up in Freckle, MobyMax, and Epic. Our plan will be a mix of online learning platforms and paper/pencil work. If we can get devices to families that need them, we will work on adding interactive virtual sessions.
3. Trust that I will get you information as it is available. Like so many of you, I do not enjoy ambiguity, and I believe that transparency is the best operating principle.
4. Use this time to love your family. As was recently driven home for our community, life is fleeting. This time is a gift. Read with your kids. Catch up on Netflix. Do a puzzle. Take a walk. Learn to speak sign language. Play with your dogs. While we didn’t choose to be home, we can choose, at least in part, how we use the time. That is a silver lining, right?
What I find truly ironic about this is that I recently changed my stance on hugging. In general, I wasn’t a fan of hugging adults. Then when we lost Keegs & McKinley, I felt differently. I hugged a lot of you. Well those days are over again! Back to elbow bumps, I guess!
Hugs or elbow bumps, whatever. The bottom line is that I value each of you and am exceedingly grateful that when there is a crisis, we navigate it together. Together, we’ll conquer this new way of working with our families. Together we have moved many mountains and we’ll traverse this one too.
Yours in teaching and learning,
Advice for Moving Forward
The email above offers some practical advice already, but I want to share three more thoughts below.
1. Model what you want to see. For me there are three things I’d like to see happen for the families that attend my school. I want them to honor the shelter-in-place order, I want them to continue to read every day, and I want them to enjoy their time together as much as possible. So that means I am sheltered-in-place, I am reading a ton, and I am spending as much time with my own teenaged children as they’ll let me.
I am active on social media and have posted about all of these things every day. I have also used Facebook Live to share my thoughts with families, including chatting with them about the books I am reading.
2. Get used to no such thing as “business as usual.” Adjust your mindset and open your heart to the changing nature of teaching and learning. What we know today may be completely different from what we learn tomorrow. Again, we have no control of that. The only thing we can do is work on staying calm and offering others grace. Assume that everyone is doing the best they can right now.
Helping your students continue to learn matters, but try to remember, they are not in school and that means learning won’t look the same. Sure, send home packets. Sure, give kids access to online learning platforms. Sure, make videos of you teaching lessons. But, remember, less is probably more and keep in mind that equity is an issue. Not only don’t all kids have access to online learning resources, but certainly there are many who don’t have parents who can or will help them or hold them accountable.
3. Focus in on your core values. Now, more than ever before, it’s important for educators to identify and make decisions based on their core values. I wrote about the idea in an early post. I urge you to read it and to think about what matters most, and then use that knowledge to guide your work with students and families. Be sure to take care of yourself too.
The bottom line right now is that this is new to all of us. There are bound to be lots of bumps in the road. That’s okay. We’re all in it together. Reach out and let me know how I can help you in the comments. I’ll do my best to try.
Great big virtual hugs to you all!
Rita Platt is a principal in Wisconsin and recently received a leadership award from the Kohl Foundation. Her first book, Working Hard, Working Happy: Cultivating a Culture of Effort and Joy in the Classroom, is a Routledge/ MiddleWeb publication. It’s a quick read, filled with practical ideas about creating a learning culture in your classroom and school (see this review by Anne Anderson). MiddleWeb readers receive a 20% discount at the Routledge site with the code MWEB1.