School leaders across the country are facing additional layers of complexity as they prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. The saying, “the only constant is change” has never felt more real. As school leaders plan for the fall, strategies to ensure rigorous curriculum, positive, supportive school culture, and quality teacher instruction must be developed now in anticipation of a highly uncertain future.
Some schools will consider using a virtual or hybrid-learning model for next school year. It is likely that academic content will be delivered in nontraditional ways, which will require teachers, students, parents and administrators to continue being flexible and supportive.
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Fostering a positive school culture and offering opportunities for staff professional development on new content must be considered.
Develop or Maintain a Positive School Culture Program
Schools can be a source of strength for students whose lives have been disrupted. Many students will be returning to school having experienced trauma, extreme stress and a disruption of normalcy. Addressing and supporting the social-emotional needs of students during distance learning and once students return to the school building will be critical to fostering a caring and supportive school culture. Some schools may choose to use programs like Kickboard to help track student behaviors. This would help school leaders identify students that would benefit from additional support.
Schools can also support PBIS next school year by providing workshops for parents. Depending on the circumstances, these workshops can be held online or physically at school. Workshop topics could include the importance of establishing routines, setting clear behavioral and/or academic expectations and positive praise both at school and at home. Educators are encouraged to follow the general rule of thumb; for every 1 corrective interaction there should be 3 positive interactions (3:1 positivity ratio). Together, educators and parents should work together to implement a positive behavior framework that will support students at home and at school.
Regardless of where learning is taking place, teachers, parents and administrators should be rewarding and recognizing students. Over the past few weeks, I have seen teachers come up with creative incentives that can be implemented again next school year. Teachers have rewarded students by taking them on virtual field trips, one teacher had a Zoom movie night where she rented a movie and shared her screen with the students so they could all watch together. Other teachers are making more positive calls home and giving student shout-outs during online classes.
Teachers and support staff can also continue implementing specific interventions such as the Check-in/Check-Out behavior system for students who have been identified as needing additional support. This system can be implemented virtually (or in-person) by assigning a staff member to students who they will communicate with twice on a daily basis, checking-in and out at a set time each day.
Staff Professional Development
As virtual learning continues, teachers and staff will need to be trained and supported as they continue using online platforms and a variety of instructional resources. As a way to cultivate the leadership capacity at your school, ask a staff member who has been successful at using one of the programs this spring to develop a staff Professional Development session where they can share their best practices and provide on-going support to other teachers who may be using that program. Allowing teachers an opportunity and space where they can lead will strengthen the school’s culture, while also providing a learning experience for other teachers and staff.
Every Friday I ask teachers to reflect and share one way they have motivated their students that week. I compile their responses and email them out to the entire staff. This has been extremely successful as it allows teachers to learn from one-another regardless of the grade level or content area they teach. Teachers are more mindful of the different techniques they are using and students are seeing consistencies. Survey results indicate that students recognize and appreciate these different practices. School leaders have a lot to consider as they plan for different scenarios next fall. As educators, we challenge our students to think critically and apply their knowledge to real-world scenarios. Now, more than ever, school leaders must do the same.