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Today's One Thing for Leaders: Connecting Remotely

Jeremy Jones

Jeremy Jones

The Learning Accelerator

It’s often said that schools adopt the personality of their leaders. In this case, what you model for your team will become a common way of operating among the people you lead. During this crisis – and beyond – you have a unique opportunity to model first-in-class attitudes, practices, and behaviors that help your team and students not just persist but thrive through school closures now and in the future.

What modeling can you do to begin this journey? While we will never be able to fully replicate the benefits of coming together in the same physical space while operating in remote environments, educators from around the globe are developing creative ways to match the energy, spirit, and connection that makes school a special place. The big question we are addressing today is: How can we adequately meet the social needs of our teams and students in a remote environment?

In our companion series supporting teachers, we described a few concrete and easy-to-adapt methods for creating community and connecting with each other. We encourage you to read this and share it with your teachers. Maintaining continuity as a school community is a powerful lever for a school leader, and the ideas we share that help teachers maintain continuity with students can help your community build resilience.

Get Started

Here are three tips to help you get started right away in modeling the connected culture you want to create.

  • Create a connection challenge and commit to it: Take an audit of how many times and in what ways you connected with your community last week. Set out to top that number this week. While we cannot replace the humanity of proximity, connecting frequently shows your commitment to your team. How many times and in how many different ways can you reach out this week?
    • When you create your connection goals, share them with your team and let them help keep you accountable.
    • Schedule beginning and end-of-week check-ins with your direct reports. This is an easy way to double your connections in one week.
    • Use a website like Canva or an app like Retype to send digital cards to members of your team appreciating the work they are doing.
  • Schedule your fun and have shared experiences: If we don’t plan intentionally, we can’t count on what we want to happen to become a reality. That includes fun and shared experiences. Again, it is important to keep these experiences authentic to your community, but challenge yourself to get creative. Here are some of the activities the TLA team has tried out to intentionally create space for fun, allow for brain breaks, and build in ways to accept and engage families:
    • Shared read-alouds: There are a lot of places on the internet where you can find principals doing online read-alouds for students. This is a great opportunity to have a shared experience with your community.
    • Trivia lunch: We can’t meet for lunch in a teacher’s lounge right now, but scheduling an online lunch together will help your team connect and have a mental break in the middle of the day. For added fun, pose some interesting trivia questions to the group or consider using an app like Houseparty to play games with your team.
    • Online circles: Many schools are adopting practices derived from Restorative Justice (RJ). A primary approach from the RJ toolkit is using circles to create community. Leaders can use similar approaches online. Whether you ask your team to read an article and you discuss it together or you simply check in as a group with some shared questions for everyone to answer, these vulnerable spaces can help reunite the community.
    • Additional ideas: This list shares resources ranging from online fitness classes and strategies to help you structure your day to ideas on how to give back during the COVID-19 crisis.

Education-Focused Resources

Next Steps

For next week’s post, we are developing tools and tips to help school leaders stay organized during remote schooling. On our minds after that will be Teacher Appreciation Week, and we will share our ideas around celebrating educators on the frontline in this time of virtual learning. As hiring season approaches, we are also thinking about resources to support your recruitment processes. We look forward to sharing these resources (and more!) with you over the coming weeks.

Was this post helpful? How else can we support you? Let me know by emailing me at jeremy.jones@learningaccelerator.org or Tweet us @LearningAccel.

Jeremy Jones

Jeremy Jones

The Learning Accelerator

Jeremy Jones is a Partner at The Learning Accelerator, where he brings insight to TLA's schools and systems strategy work. Jeremy has spent 15 years working alongside students and families in schools across the country to close the academic achievement gap.