by Meredith Monk Ford
In our Town Hall earlier this week with Tim Fish, I was especially struck by his statement, “As school leaders, we need to deliver on things that are basic first.” Town Hall participants were sharing stories about parents challenging the value of distance learning and teachers struggling with ambiguous expectations and disconnection from their communities.
I agree with Tim.
In this time of uncertainty, we need to keep our habits. We need to iterate and maintain our practices as school leaders. While we adjust to our new reality, we can’t lose sight of our values: our basics.
That includes supporting teachers and staff by encouraging their learning and growth mindset.
The tenets and practices that drive professional development when we are sitting in school buildings are still relevant and important when we are leading and teaching from our living rooms. They begin with setting and adjusting goals so that teachers can focus their energy and map out a plan with specific, concrete steps. School leaders can facilitate this process by doing what they always do – providing opportunities to pause and reflect, and initiating productive conversations that result in innovative ideas that can be implemented in the classroom – even remote classrooms.
Now that most of our schools have a few days or weeks of distance learning behind them, if we want to be strategic instead of reactionary, it is the right time to pause and think about professional learning goals for divisions, departments and schools as well as for individuals. What have we learned during this transition already, and how can we iterate on our initial strategy as an institution? What are our current expectations for teaching… for interactions… for how we work with students and families? What needs to be adjusted based on our experiences thus far? Leadership teams can then engage in a feedback discussion to determine what they (and their faculty and staff) have learned in the past month, what is going well (and should be continued or enhanced) and what should be changed or modified to make sure that students and faculty are learning meaningfully. A Plus Delta exercise might be good for this process: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ADEd0IIswpQ)
And this: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ipM_HhgKA0bwOTiR9KM6Xchc8OEIseJg4kwx0KqTlfQ/edit?usp=sharing
This level-setting activity could be a great topic for a faculty meeting. Then, when that discussion yields two or three institutional (or department) goals, teachers can remotely gather in groups to brainstorm ways that those goals can be met. Even more, those goals can be the foundation of one-on-one conversations between faculty and supervisors – the real basis of successful professional development!
The Folio platform has some useful tools that make these discussions and goals sharable. Read here for some ideas.
Now more than ever, schools and school leaders can be making sure that every student, faculty member and staff person feels connected with and supported by the school. As we pay special attention to ensuring the integrity of the learning process, let’s not ignore the shared goals and personal conversations that make it happen.