Two weeks ago, when I wrote my last blog about integrity, I was just finishing an amazing week of school improvement coaching and had spent the weekend traveling to visit my oldest daughter and my sister. I had returned to work only to have the week cut short as COVID-19 continued its march in to North America. Little did I know, when I left the school that day, that it would be highly unlikely that I would see the teachers and school leaders any time soon.
Over the past two weeks, I struggled to make the changes that are needed so quickly. What routines were normal are now missing in my day; friends and family who I had plans to see and spend time with are now virtual connections only; worrying about loved ones is a constant and knowing that the schools and districts that I support are full of questions and unknowns, makes me sad. Despite this, we have to look for the silver linings and I want to tell you about principals that I talked with this week who are bound and determined to continue to make a difference… here they are…
The first principal I want to re-introduce you to is Sarah Stobaugh at Morrilton Intermediate School. You may remember a blog that I wrote about the incredible shared leadership model that Sarah had created with her teachers. This week, I want to give her and her community (South Conway County School District in Arkansas) a shout out for the time and attention that they are spending making sure families have food (and teaching is continuing). That’s Sarah in the picture with her own bus -driving dad, delivering food to families. With Sarah’s permission, I am sharing what she wrote about her school community this week on Facebook:
“Let me tell you what happened today. Our district prepared over 1,100 meals for our community. Teachers took time from answering questions for kids and parents online (as they try to find the best ways to serve our students through a completely different platform other than the classroom) and jumped on a bus to go deliver lunches. When they had meals left over they asked their bus driver to drive around to find more kids in other neighborhoods. They asked to go to houses of specific kids just to lay eyes on them and make sure they were ok. They looked for bikes or kids’ toys in the yard and knocked on doors to see if there were more kids inside that needed food. They weren’t satisfied until they thought they had fed all they could find. Then they went home and answered more questions and recorded more instructional videos for their students to stay engaged as we deal with these uncertain times. Tonight I know they will send up some prayers for their kids before they fall asleep. And they will wake up tomorrow and do it all over again. Our teachers are incredible, selfless people that get things done no matter the circumstance.”
The second principal I want you to meet is Meg Boyd, Principal of Edgewood Elementary School in Greenfield, Wisconsin. I had a great conversation with her and despite the conditions that have been presented to her, she told me in, her calm and organized way, about the “virtual social” that she held with her staff on Friday afternoon. She felt so positive about the chance for her staff to still feel connected and the opportunity that she had to really help create a sense of normalcy during this very challenging time.
We talked about all of the multi-tasking that has taken place this week; doing her job from home, making decisions about the direction for the school year, supporting her staff, families and students, attending virtual meetings and at the same time, trying to home school her own children. In all of this, her biggest concern is equity; are all of her students going to have the same experiences with distance education, support etc. while they are home? She has students who need translation, interventions and she knows that many of her families are struggling. On Monday evening, Meg started a virtual story time through Facebook. She read a story to her students and teachers are now volunteering to help out and they hope to be able to do this five nights a week. Libraries are closed and she is concerned for students who do not have many books at home. I am sure her families loved her virtual story time! She also told me about a teacher who had had a “virtual conference” with four of her students just to check in with them and how she was thinking about different ways that relationships with families and students could continue.
Meg also knows how easy it would be for her teachers to work all the time while at home and that definitely is not her expectation. How does she balance the reality that there is still teaching and learning to take place with her staff’s needs to look after themselves and their families? And lastly, she reminded me that while the situation is one we have never experienced before, student behaviors are now not getting in the way of instruction and she is confident that she could have even stronger relationships with her parents and community when this ends.
There are so many stories that I could tell you in this first week of our new way of living- people doing the right things to keep themselves and communities healthy, caring, connecting and showing that relationships truly matter. To my readers who are health care workers and others providing essential services- thank you for the tireless efforts being made. To my principals and teachers, I am thinking about you and will stay in touch as we continue to find ways to help each and every student be successful.
I appreciated every check in with me this week, every coaching conversation that happened on the phone or virtually and all of the times that some one demonstrated the absolute finest ways that we can create loving opportunities for others. Have a healthy and safe week.