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HomeRoom: 4 Questions to Help You Plan for Summer Slide

In This Issue...

  • Reflections from Gateway High School Leaders
  • RESOURCE: Stymie Summer Slide with a Fun Summer Learning Program
  • RESOURCE: 4 Questions to Help You Address Learning Loss
  • LINK: Teaching About Race, Racism and Police Violence
  • LINK: 3 Ways to Support Students' Emotional Well-Being
  • LINK (With Quizzes!): Greater Good's Keys to Well-Being
  • Summer Hiatus: We'll Be Back Soon!
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“Leadership and Adult Learning in Unprecedented Times (or Fast and Slow)"

Reflections from Jeff Sprague, Humanities Teacher & Instructional Leader and Becca Wieder, Director of Curriculum and Instruction @ Gateway High School

In a time where we seem to be remaking every aspect of our daily life and work, it’s helpful to realize that not everything is new. We still need to attend to the personal and relational, even as the technical shifts beg for our time and attention. We still need to prioritize, recognizing that there will always be more work, more needs than we can address in a 40-hour (or 60-hour, or 80-hour) work week. We still need to ground these priorities in what we’re about and where we’re trying to go – in our case, providing engaging, accessible, meaningful learning in service of equitable outcomes for students. There are so many best practices that carry over from “The Before” to now – though their importance has become outsized. In a global pandemic, you need best practices on steroids.

Less is More
Take prioritizing. Always a necessity, the shifting landscape and expansion of student needs means we are narrowing from a wider field, having to let go of even more priorities in order to focus on the non-negotiables of this moment – getting technology into students’ hands, moving graduation online – while holding onto the important questions we will need to address for months and years to come. How will we assess where students are academically and social-emotionally? How will we adjust to the widening range of skill levels and experiences? In order to hold both the urgent and the important, we have to sharpen our focus on what really matters, what is essential, and let the rest fall away. This can be especially challenging when letting go of initiatives into which we had heavily invested, or practices that we particularly enjoy. 

Thinking Fast and Slow
Part of prioritizing in a pandemic is recognizing when a quick decision has to be made – we no longer have the luxury of working over new ideas or possibilities in the way we usually would. In a highly collaborative school, that has meant getting frequent feedback from stakeholders so that decisions can be made with everyone’s perspective in mind. 

What’s tricky is that we also have to recognize when to slow down and wait for the road ahead to become more clear – so much is beyond our control, and we have seen realities shift dramatically in the course of days. From this tension comes a new best practice: think fast about how to gather information and get ready for the unknown; think slow about big shifts and policy changes until we can be sure our decisions match our values.

We Have Needs Too!
One important reminder we’re always giving ourselves during “regular” school is how our adults need all the same stuff our kids need in order to learn – connection, community, challenge, relevance, etc. Just like students, we adult learners have social-emotional needs. We need to feel a sense of trust and connection with others to genuinely engage in our work together. So, Zoom breakout rooms aren’t just for smaller teams to collaboratively brainstorm and problem-solve. They’re a great small-group setting for silliness and fun, like an icebreaker game or sharing weird highlights of sheltering-in-place. One of the best connecting activities recently was having each person share a stretch for the group to do for ten seconds. After just two minutes, we emerged present, refreshed and connected to each other in yet another new way. 

Keep the Feedback Flowing 
Lost are all those small ways we get informal feedback in school. School leaders don’t run into staff at the coffee maker or copier and hear how teachers are feeling in more casual ways. Therefore, it’s become even more critical that we build in places for teacher feedback just about every staff meeting. We don’t want to kill people with Google forms, but giving people a chance to share their reflections, ideas and needs for support is essential to holding the many different perspectives on this challenging experience. 

It's hard to predict, even now, what the new school year will look like, but with these priorities in mind and a commitment to taking care of each other, we can handle whatever this August brings.

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