September 2020 #Suptchat Recap: Leadership Lessons From Unprecedented Times
In September 2020, the back-to-school conversations educators are having are like never before. In case you missed the #suptchat on Twitter this week, the Paper team is here to provide you with a comprehensive wrap-up.
Q1: How have your teachers shown resiliency in preparing for and starting this school year?
From all the answers, it’s evident that district administrators are teachers’ #1 fans, singing their praises from every corner of America.
A1: My teachers assigned to the juvenile justice center have been teaching throughout shelterinplace & have endured masks, a COVID outbreak, quarantine, and 2 COVID tests. They created class packets for the students daily and when it was time to return they were ready! #suptchat— Dr. Deanna Oliver (@DeannaDoliver) September 3, 2020
The main themes repeated throughout all the tweets were:
- Teachers have adopted a positive, find-a-way, can-do spirit.
- They have been incredibly flexible and patient, and quick to pivot as plans have changed or been adjusted.
- They jumped into remote teaching with courage and conviction.
- They have fostered a profoundly collaborative, supportive environment where they share ideas and discoveries.
- They are growing their skills as educators and learning new technologies, all while ensuring high-quality instruction, no matter the modality.
- They have a deep commitment to their students that outweighs everything else, by continuously working on rapport-building and proving they will do what’s best for students no matter what.
- They have been creative, ingenious, and forward-thinking with their lessons and strategies to engage students remotely, and have shown a strong willingness to take risks.
Q2: The past year has called for a lot of change, describe what emotions you have been feeling?
A2: Emotions? I have felt everyone. Anxiety. Stress. Hope. Optimism. Defeat. Discouragement. Worry. But the deepest emotion is respect for what we do in public education and for my colleagues. I do not want to let either down. #suptchat— Bob McBride (@PorterSup205) September 3, 2020
Unsurprisingly, every emotion under the sun was listed in response to this, from uncertainty, anxiety, and disappointment to optimism, excitement, and relief.
A2: My emotions have been all over the place this year. I've gone from overwhelmed to exhausted to frustrated to nervous to incredibly proud - sometimes all in the same day! #suptchat pic.twitter.com/itGMCRv6eq— Nick Polyak (@npolyak) September 3, 2020
Evidently, superintendents miss their students terribly, are proud of what their communities have accomplished, and are inspired by their students' and educators' heroic and resilient actions.
Many are now relieved that their back-to-school plans are finally in action, proud of what has been accomplished, and hopeful for the future of education.
A2: It’s been a roller coaster, no doubt. My leadership capacity is stretched to the limits. Each day has incredible highs and significant frustrations. Thankful to be surrounded by a great team & people. Also thankful for the support from my colleagues. #suptchat— Dan_Cox (@Dan_Cox) September 3, 2020
Q3: How have you helped your school, district, or community overcome fears related to school this year?
Clear, consistent, and concise communication. We heard it loud and clear — this is the most crucial component of easing uncertainty and fear. Being transparent, honest, and vulnerable, all while being a good listener and providing opportunities for feedback are all essential elements of good communication.
A3: Communication + Honesty = Trust. Being open about my own fears and concerns, listening to those of others, and working collaboratively to take it one step at a time. Not perfect, but in it together. #suptchat— Terri Bresnahan (@TerriBresnahan) September 3, 2020
A3: Respect that we all have different comfort levels and fears about returning. Frequent communication about health/safety protocols, provide opportunities for feedback, be responsive. No plan is perfect, but staff need to know we are promptly addressing concerns. #suptchat— Mary Havis (@maryhavis) September 3, 2020
Though communication is what dominated the conversation, here are some other tips leaders shared:
A3: Remaining positive. A lot of negativity and fear has surrounded this pandemic. Pointing out what is working and how hard everyone has pulled together has united our community and gathered backing of our schools through difficult decisions. #SuptChat— E. Scott England (@EScottEngland) September 3, 2020
A3:I have done my best to provide opportunities to collaborate, & share ideas/resources. Sometimes just having others to brainstorm with, etc. is all you need to overcome fears & feel supported to make decisions. Knowing you aren't alone can make a huge difference. #suptchat— Katie Algrim (@Katie092513) September 3, 2020
Q4: What dream about the future of education are you not allowing yourself to dream because the perceived risk is too high?
Amazingly, despite the question posed, many educators responded that they never stopped dreaming and are, indeed, dreaming every day for a better future. If anything, as superintendent Bob McBride pointed out, the pandemic is “forcing fluidity, change, and innovation in the structure and delivery of learning that is opening up so many possibilities for the future.”
The most popular aspiration among those in the #suptchat was to have full-time in-person schooling, where students can go back to having a “normal” educational experience.
Some others that stood out to us were:
A4: I'm dreaming about the future post COVID-19-what will we offer that is new, innovative, inventive, & personalized/individualized as a result of new experiences? Perhaps we'll have greater equity of access for each child. Perhaps we'll have greater equity of sharing #suptchat— Michael Lubelfeld (@mikelubelfeld) September 3, 2020
A4) That this moment in time will break the system and school will continue to fit the needs of the students and community. School would not be restricted to a specific amount of seat time and learning can be about mastery instead of time-bound grades #suptchat— Greg Bagby #StayHome (@Gregbagby) September 3, 2020
A4: Do I dare to dream of the day when all of the little things we used to sweat will be welcome distractions after COVID?? #suptchat— Terri Bresnahan (@TerriBresnahan) September 3, 2020
#suptchat A4: At #BHill8 we had been working toward true #personalizedlearning but due to safety have blended remote/in person. While still seeking to personalize, this unfortunately is not optimal for all students, because of learning styles, home supports, connectivity, etc.— Todd Dugan (@tdugan75) September 3, 2020
A4: My dream...will the Fall of 2022 be any different than the Fall of 2019? In other words, did K12 use this time to innovate, create and grow in an effort to meet the needs of students or is that too BIG of a dream? #suptchat— Randy Speck, Ed.D. (@Randy_Speck) September 3, 2020
Q5: How are you working to empower those that are typically marginalized by current institutions within education?
Closing the digital divide has been a focal point for district leaders since the beginning of the pandemic. With a new school year beginning, lack of devices and broadband access is still a pressing concern for many:
A5: There are so many systems here to think about and needs as well, but our greatest would be equity for internet access due to our rural location. There is such a divide in comparison to other areas of our region and state. #suptchat— Gina Richard - #ChaseYourGreatness🦋 (@GinaRich_1111) September 3, 2020
A5: Making sure all students have the resources they need to be successful remotely. Investing in wifi hotspots, reaching out when we lose connections with students/families, bringing students into the buildings for in-person who need it most. #suptchat— Mary Havis (@maryhavis) September 3, 2020
District leaders are making decisions knowing that equity gaps have only been growing since March. Many are expanding their support interventions and practices, as well as reviewing policies and procedures that marginalize others:
A5: @kcsd96 is undertaking Equity Audits and making intentional, targeted changes to reduce systemic barriers & bolster systemic supports. The goal is to “shovel the ramp” to give access to all. #suptchat #Inspire96 pic.twitter.com/YIsJliSYJS— Brandon Baisden (@B_Baisden) September 3, 2020
#suptchat A5: We are allowing students with IEPs to attend 4 days/week as opposed to the 2/3 for others in order to close learning gaps. Also, no students will be going to alternative school this year! ZERO! This should also help combat the school to prison pipeline— Todd Dugan (@tdugan75) September 3, 2020
A5: Taking the bell curve as a guide, looking at who has been leading #edtech & #equity work before COVID, we see who has been leading ahead of the curve. Empowering/supporting/engaging w/ leaders of who already have expertise is how we meettheneeds of the marginalized. #Suptchat https://t.co/trMR8V2dEO pic.twitter.com/4logFCbWc7— Pam Gildersleeve-Hernandez (@pgilders) September 3, 2020
Q6: How does your classroom/school/district adequately prepare kids for their tomorrow? For their tomorrow a decade from now?
Schools’ digital infrastructure will be heavily upgraded following this past Spring semester:
Q6 we have moved ahead light years with 1:1 set up. More importantly curriculum design has been huge for us. State funding for upgrades to school tech has been huge! #suptchat— Ry Heavner (@Heavner7) September 3, 2020
Something that couldn’t be emphasized enough was the importance of socioemotional learning, and equipping students with a resiliency toolbox:
Q6: One very beautiful thing that came out of this pandemic is the realization that SEL matters ALOT. I think as long as we focus on relationships we can teach kids anything. We prepare our kids for tomorrow by making them feel heard today. #suptchat— Kate Kwasny (@KwasnyKate) September 3, 2020
A6: Still a work in progress, but that’s the point, right? Tomorrow is always changing, so must we! It goes back to resilience and being ok with change. Greatest asset we can instill in ourselves and our students. Load up the resiliency toolbox! #suptchat pic.twitter.com/W09vtDuzeN— Terri Bresnahan (@TerriBresnahan) September 3, 2020
A6: On the Short Time Horizon: by educating hearts & minds in a safe, trusting environment with consistency; realistic & high expectations; resilience; and optimism about potential while following our @kcsd96 #values daily. On the Long Time Horizon: see the short list. #suptchat— Brandon Baisden (@B_Baisden) September 3, 2020
According to a lot of educators, post-secondary readiness programs will never look the same, and schools must be preparing their students for a rapidly changing world:
A6: Strategic planning centered around vision and mission with the ability to embrace change (sometimes continuous change) which focuses on meeting the needs of our students. #suptchat— Gina Richard - #ChaseYourGreatness🦋 (@GinaRich_1111) September 3, 2020
A6: Through new unconventional practices we are getting kids to think about their own thinking and ask the right questions. These habits our students are developing will prepare them for life after high school. #SuptChat— Matthew Gutiérrez (@DrMattGutierrez) September 3, 2020
Q7: How are connecting with and supporting your colleagues during these unprecedented times?
Opening lines of communication between leaders is key in challenging times.
A7: I have said and continue to say one of the best things to come out of this is the comradarie that ROE 1 supts have shared! We have weekly meetings online, text or call each other constantly to vent or even laugh at those “You can’t make this up” situations. #suptchat— Adam Dean (@adambdean82) September 3, 2020
A7: Spent 1 hour today networking and collaborating with @JustinJennings6 @REYNSupt @DrBaronDavis @BeachSupe @MarkBedell_KCPS. We leaned heavily on one another today. #suptchat https://t.co/4Omth1EOyJ— Marlon Styles (@MCSDSuper) September 3, 2020
As some educators put it, the field is #BestTogether—this involves healthy doses of self-care and routine check-ins:
A7: I continue to try to connect in positive ways in my communication and in meetings with colleagues. One of the meeting norms we practice is “Make Someone’s Day.” I try to do that by providing info, answers, and smiles (hopefully). #suptchat pic.twitter.com/C79qKpXCro— Brandon Baisden (@B_Baisden) September 3, 2020
A7: Trying to check in with at least one colleague daily. Have had others check in on me. My colleagues, especially my closest network, has been the most valuable assett during this time. #suptchat— Dan_Cox (@Dan_Cox) September 3, 2020
A7: As a district, we are focusing on self-care. We can't be our best for students and staff if we aren't taking care of ourselves - excited to see so many @BerwynSouth100 staff members working with their accountability buddies to encourage health & wellness. #suptchat— Mary Havis (@maryhavis) September 3, 2020
Q8: While leading through a global pandemic, what is one "silver lining" you have found?
Despite the challenges, some educators expressed appreciation for the time spent at home with loved ones:
A8 having my college kids home a little longer( they’re both back to school ) Enjoying again childhood awes— star lit nights, the sounds of a summer night, time for more exercise #suptchat pic.twitter.com/VHOW95FJ3o— Randy Squier (@randysquier) September 3, 2020
Equity, compassion and collaboration are now at the forefront of every conversation:
A8 Compassion and seeing our staff work together for the common goal of providing the best education we could regardless of the circumstances we were dealt. No one ever gave up on our students and they did what they could to support them academically and beyond #suptchat— Shane Kazubowski (@geesesupt) September 3, 2020
In unprecedented times, educators are now rethinking and reimagining the possibilities of schooling:
A8: The silver lining is that we are seizing the opportunity to try unconventional strategies to approach leading, teaching, and learning. The impact of today's approaches will have lasting effects on education. #SuptChat— Matthew Gutiérrez (@DrMattGutierrez) September 3, 2020
#suptchat A8: There are 2 silver linings I have seen: 1) we realize that our scheduling (bells and summers off) is not conducive to learning and 2) individual subjects do not have to remain separate in order for true learning to occur #silverliningforlearning— Todd Dugan (@tdugan75) September 3, 2020
Lastly, amidst this crisis, the rest of the world is finally appreciating educators for all the work they do:
A8: Without a consistent message or vision, school leaders have had to be a constant force of calm for their communities...the silver lining can be an appreciation for what school leaders do & for school leaders to continue to raise the bar of expectations & leadership #suptchat— Randy Speck, Ed.D. (@Randy_Speck) September 3, 2020
A8: Educators are freaking awesome. We already knew this. But now the world is beginning to see it more clearly. That is a silver and gold lining altogether. #SuptChat— E. Scott England (@EScottEngland) September 3, 2020
Some closing remarks from #suptchat moderators:
Next month #suptchat will mark the sixth year of connections around the nation, world, and neighborhood. Thank you @npolyak & EVERYONE directly or indirectly engaged in the chat! Thank you for leading, serving, sharing, teaching & learning! Our students are counting on us!— Michael Lubelfeld (@mikelubelfeld) September 3, 2020