Episode # 50: Live Event Celebration!
Guests for this live event celebration were:
From episode # 5: Jen Molitor is a Speaker and Author of The Happy Teacher’s Handbook- From Overwhelmed to Inspired- Helping Teachers Embrace Resiliency. She is a first year principal at a 4th/5th grade campus in Ohio. Find Jen on Twitter @TeacherRenegade
From Episode #31: Brad Hughes is an elementary school Principal in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada. Brad recently launched his own podcast “Good news, Brad news”, on anchor.. Follow him on Twitter @Brad_Hughes
From episode #34 joining us at 5 EST: Brandon Beck, Ed.D. is the Author of “Unlocking Unlimited Potential: Understanding the Infinite Power within to Guide any student toward success.” He has been a dual language teacher elementary teacher for 15 years in NY state. Follow him Twitter & IG @BrandonBeckEDU FB: Brandon Beck Visit his website: brandonbeckedu.com
From upcoming episode #63 (? TBD): Chris Dodge is currently the Principal of The Orange Elementary Schools in Orange, MA, serving 500 students in grades PreK-6. He is a connected educator who utilizes social media to make family and community connections, & as a form of ongoing, personalized professional development. Follow him Twitter & IG @PrincipalDodge1
Topics that we discussed: 1) Provide a snapshot of where you are currently- hybrid, remote, transitioning to either and wins you have experienced in this model: Jen: has been full in person since the beginning of the year. Have had to shut down 2x’s to go remote. Their goal is to stay open. There has been a huge gap in kids when a class or 2 is remote. Has been full in-person since Jan. Brad: right now both in-person and full distance in ON. His district got permission to fully open this past Monday. 100’s of students are participating in full remote. Challenge to manage teacher capacity. Chris: still remote, will go to hybrid March 1. Staff are ready. They have been very flexible. They’re making 1000 decisions a day. There’s a lot of decision fatigue, ton of things to get people in terms of wifi devices. Developed a remote learning academy to bring students in temporarily. Excited to get back to in-person in March.
2) New approaches you’ve used to show staff appreciation and decrease staff burnout since spring semester started: Brad: have tried to keep things as simple and clear as they can. Staff morale is about managing the gap. They’ve tried to simplify all information coming from province and district. He leverages the power of connection. Casual and positive check-ins. Doesn’t want staff to fell like they’re in a state of supervision. 2 questions he asks: “What do you need and How can I help”? Give people a chance to think about that. More of a cultural approach. Chris: small events to show appreciation. Has developed a culture where they’ve embraced the suck. Encouraged staff to make a self-care plan. It’s ok to say it’s really hard. He understands, admits he doesn’t have the answers. Have built a collaborative culture where they were headed towards something that prepared them for this. Jen: they have rallied around each other to support each other. She supported teachers with new math curriculum in the fall. Encouraged teachers to tell her what they need. Taking the village approach. Much more SEL strategies this year. Has been a challenge to support students’ needs. Staff shout-outs at the end of the day. Brandon: power of positivity. His admin has been practicing. He says “it took us a pandemic to recognize that mental health needs to be at the forefront”. His district has a 60% Latino with large FRL (free & reduced lunch) population. They don’t always have the supports at home. His district has been good at communication. His principal has been very patient. Every teacher has their own techniques that works for them so they have been able to push away from the standardization. Have added in a 45 m period “community building” SEL learning time.
3) Teacher evaluation, observation, coaching conversations- what have been your take-aways on what you want to improve upon these last 3+ months of the school year? Chris: feels like he’s become a better coach this year. The paperwork he’s let go of this year. He feels like the evaluation piece being taken away this year, he can have coaching conversations. Asks “tell me what I just saw, what didn’t I see?” Reflective questions. Can bring observation pieces to other teachers. “Let me listen to you.” Then a teacher will be able to open up more. They are more trusting. He’s made it a goal to be in classrooms just as much even though they’re virtual. He tells them “I have no idea how you’re doing this”. He has so much respect for first year teachers. This will help us rethink about breaking out of the industrial model of education. Looking at SEL and mental health. There’s a lot of good coming out of this. His teachers are still thinking through the old lens and beating themselves up saying “I’m not meeting my kids’ needs”. They’re putting themselves down. They shouldn’t believe they’re not enough. It’s got to be deeper than “let it go”. Jen: she feels like teachers are carrying a burden to be the teacher they’ve always been. They have to keep up with kids who are remote. They are so focused on data conversations. She went into it with “what are we noticing, what can we do to support kids?” “what if we got together and tried a different approach to support the kid?” Test scores are a temp check. She encourages teachers to keep doing what they’re doing. The conversations are much more personal, gentle nature. There’s the teacher ownership piece, how do we help them let go of the pressures? She tells them they aren’t held to a certain standard. It’s OK! Brad: Evaluation has to be founded on assuming competency. They can’t be in the process of fault-finding” gotcha”’ process. Their t evaluations have been suspended. Traditional evaluation model is assuming the teacher is teaching in their classroom. In a virtual environment it doesn’t work. The process has decentralized the admin-teacher gap. Experts are all over. Rather than being an evaluator his goal is to build the capacity. The only requirement is evaluations for new teachers. He says “I’m coming in to reflect on what he sees”. He watches teachers work their magic. He assumes their confident and capable. It’ an opportunity to challenge systems and look at what you’re called to do. Why should we do anything to educators that diminishes their chance of success. We’ve inherited a narrative of “not enough” and scarcity. Service professions are often least understood and most undervalued. We have an opportunity to challenge that narrative. We want to make sure we’re doing right by everyone. We have a fear of getting it wrong. Make a shift from gaps to growth. We’re worried about learning loss. We need to not ignore that growth that is occurring. Kids are all surviving a pandemic. There isn’t a playbook. We’re writing history. We’re in the heart of a deeply creative time. We need to shift the focus to growth rather than gaps. What are you creating because you’re meeting the needs of kids? Brandon: he has an informal evaluation tomorrow. The beginning of his EdD he started studying teacher evaluations. Linda Darlingham “Getting Teacher Evaluation Right”. He asked “what is the purpose of any evaluation?” He sees here that evaluation is to support educators. You have to return to the purpose of the evaluation. It’s an opportunity to fail. A lot of educators don’t necessarily feel that way though. It goes back to having his admin look at what he’s struggling with and he wants her feedback so he can see how to grow. If we can use the pandemic to help teachers grow in the right direction, he hopes that will stay.
4) One tip for leaders to remember to take with you for the remainder of the school year: Brandon: “Get out of your own way. Don’t measure things as you did in the past. You have to have the flexibility and patience. We have the ability to rise above this and understand we’re getting a lot out of our students. Look at the opportunities we have right now in our models. Focus on all the growth and keep pushing forward”. Jen: “I am enough”, ask yourselves at the end of the day “what difference did I make”. Chris: as a leader, get out of your staff’s way. In an effort to be helpful, he wasn’t being helpful. He understood to give staff space. He stepped back and watched. Give yourselves grace, be kind to ourselves and one another. We’re too critical of ourselves. Brad: Rae Hughart says “always strive for today’s best”’, our best is going to be top-notch, considering the circumstances we’re in. Have high and appropriate expectations. Recognize how much a % you’re giving on a particular day. What matter is you’re giving what you can to manage your own recourses. No one can ask more than your best. Give what you can today.
Watch this episode on YouTube: https://youtu.be/8VPcYgK1WHQ