November 20, 2020

 

The National Alliance, along with DreamBox Learning, hosted a webinar with education leaders on how a crisis can be a catalyst for education innovation. The panelists included Jessie Woolley-Wilson, President & CEO of DreamBox Learning, Kevin Hall, President & CEO, Charter School Growth Fund, Dr. Jason Bransford, CEO, Gem Innovation Schools, and Kinnari Patel-Smyth, Executive Director, KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools. Each shared their experiences on leading their organizations during the pandemic. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every facet of our lives, including where we work and learn. Over the past seven months, schools went from a traditional in-person experience to remote and hybrid learning. Facing deep uncertainty, schools and supporting organizations had to create responsive plans to help students, educators, and the communities they serve.

In this webinar, we learned how the pandemic affected schools, philanthropy, and education technology, lessons learned, and the opportunities to reimagine education. Here are three key takeaways from the webinar, which could help any leader design a plan for the pandemic's long-term effects and forge a path towards innovation and equity. 

  1. Lead with Care 

In moments of ambiguity and intense pressure, leaders must lead with care, honesty, and transparency. Creating an environment for your organization's values to come to life is essential. The organizational culture that you create helps ensure trust between leaders and staff. Teams managed by leaders who take time to understand their needs and listen and respond to concerns are more likely to adapt to change. 

At the Charter School Growth fund, Kevin and his team adopted a holistic view of leadership that allowed them to remain responsive to the school leaders' changing needs and provide much-needed funding to needs brought on by the pandemic. Kinnari and her team at KIPP Metro Atlanta Schools introduced "equity pause," a breathing practice that allows staff to call out injustice between a majority and a minority and or a feeling that they've observed a microaggression. Responsive moments like this, and the ability to embrace vulnerability, create space for your values as an organization to comes to life.

  1. Communication is Key 

Sharing information about what you know and being honest if you don't have the answers is always a good leadership practice, but now more than ever, it is a necessity. When people are feeling anxious and stressed, it is especially important to share information clearly and honestly. Kinnari points out, it is okay not to have the answers but share what you know, and don't be afraid to make decisions, especially if it will create calm amid chaos for your staff. 

For Jason and his team at Gem Innovation Schools, it meant ramping up communications to families and staff to fill the void with accurate information about why specific actions or policies were being adopted and connecting those decisions to the organization's values.

  1. Radically Reimagine the Future

The coronavirus pandemic has magnified many inequities in the education system. And it may be hard to imagine right now because we are trying to survive, but five years from now, what positive outcomes did the pandemic generate that made you and your organization more successful? 

Jason, Kinnari, and Kevin shared their thoughts on a post-pandemic

outlook for their organizations: 

  • Students with a high degree of ownership of their learning. 
  • Dexterity for schools to flow between different learning models seamlessly.
  • Strong focus on community and togetherness.
  • Reimagine what school should be, especially for black and brown students. 

What is your post-pandemic outlook for your organization? What happened during the pandemic that made your work more successful five years from now? 

You can watch the full recording of the webinar here.

Sindy Pierre-Noel is the senior manager of programs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

 

November 10, 2020

 

As part of the NCSCvirtual wrap-up series, I am sharing tips for teaching students self-care. The trauma and stressors of COVID-19 affect us all. Teaching self-care will help educators focus on teaching skills and activities to promote emotion regulation, independence, personal care, self-management, self-awareness, self-empowerment, and coping skills. 

Self-care is any activity that we do to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical well-being. It can include but is not limited to social, emotional, physical, and spiritual care. However, self-care is not “one size fits all.” It is crucial to empower students with a self-care “toolbox” with different skills and strategies for different scenarios and contexts. 

An important factor to consider when implementing self-care into your classroom is the developmental age. Educators who teach younger children may want to include routines for personal care, such as washing hands, bathing, and taking care of their bodies. In contrast, older students and adolescents may want to focus on outlets for safe physical activity, social media boundaries, ways to reduce isolation, navigating relationships, and emotional boundaries.

Here are some Tips for Lessons on Self-Care Classrooms that can be used in-person or online:

  • Begin the school year with self-care lessons and routines as part of your classroom culture.
  • Utilize in your lessons visuals and quotes on self-care or apps/websites students can use for self-care. 
  • Create reflection assignments for self-care like journaling.
  • Create lessons on self-care routines & how to create a self-care schedule. 
  • Create opportunities for students to talk or reflect on their self-care practices, including practices that work and don’t work for them. 
  • Create classroom routines for self-care (i.e., brain breaks, coloring breaks, mindfulness routines, calming music, etc.)
  • Create self-care spaces in classrooms (self-care corner, calming images, sensory items, coloring sheets, or calming zoom backgrounds online.)  

What is even more important is to remember when teaching students self-care is taking time for yourself. You cannot fill from an empty cup, so you need to “fill yourself first.” To take care of our students, you must practice and engage in your own self-care and ‘walk the walk.’ In turn, you will model for students how to cope and thrive in “our new normal.” 

Marina A. Badillo is a Social Worker and Counseling Director at a Charter Transfer High School located in Brooklyn, New York. She is a Doctoral Candidate at New York University’s School of Social Worker and is an Adjunct Professor for the City University of New York.   

October 9, 2020

 

NCSC speakers are some of the best education thought leaders and advocates for high-quality public education for all kids. But beyond their ability to inspire on the main stage at our conference each year, they are also best-selling authors. Through their words, they share insights and strategies that foster dialogue to motive change. From unlocking the power to social-emotional health to help kids thrive and teaching online to deeply personal and transformational stories of hope, these books will challenge us to think critically about the future of education. 

We hope you will take some time in the coming weeks to delve into these books and involve your school or office as a professional development opportunity or book club.

 Lemov Book jacket  PTF book jacket  Mckesson Book Jacket  prepared book jacket

 

Doug Lemov

Teaching in the Online Classroom: Surviving and Thriving in the New Normal 

Although the transition to online education is happening more abruptly than anyone anticipated, technology-supported teaching may be here to stay. Teaching expert Doug Lemov and his colleagues spent weeks studying videos of online teaching and they now provide educators in the midst of this transition with a clear guide to engaging and educating their students online. 

This guide explores the challenges involved in online teaching and guides educators and administrators to identify and understand best practices.  It is a valuable tool to help you and your students succeed in synchronous and asynchronous settings  this school year and beyond. 

 

Marc Brackett 

Permission to Feel: Unlocking the Power of Emotions to Help Our Kids, Ourselves, and Our Society Thrive 

In his 25 years as an emotion scientist, Marc Brackett has developed a remarkably effective plan to improve the lives of children and adults – a blueprint for understanding our emotions and using them wisely so that they help, rather than hinder, our success and well-being. This book combines rigor, science, passion and inspiration in equal parts. Too many children and adults are suffering; they are ashamed of their feelings and emotionally unskilled, but they don’t have to be. Marc Brackett’s life mission is to reverse this course, and this book can show you how.

 

diane tavenner

Prepared: What Kids Need for a Fulfilled Life 

An educator and mother, Diane Tavenner cofounded the first Summit school in 2003. Summit Public Schools has won national recognition because 99 percent of Summit students get into a four-year college, and Summit students finish college at twice the national average. But in a radical departure from the environments created by the college admissions arms race, Summit students aren’t focused on competing with their classmates for rankings or test scores. 

Today, thousands of educators, tens of thousands of students, and hundreds of schools across thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia have embraced the Summit model. Through personal stories and the hard-earned lessons of Summit’s exceptional team of educators and diverse students, Diane Tavenner shares the underlying learning philosophies and unconventional wisdom that lead to all children being prepared for school and life.

 

DeRay Mckesson

On the Other Side of Freedom: The Case for Hope 

In August 2014, twenty-nine-year-old activist DeRay Mckesson stood with hundreds of others on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, to push a message of justice and accountability. These protests, and others like them in cities across the country, resulted in the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, in his first book, Mckesson lays down the intellectual, pragmatic, and political framework for a new liberation movement.

Honest, courageous, and imaginative, On the Other Side of Freedom is a work brimming with hope. Drawing from his own experiences as an activist, organizer, educator, and public official, Mckesson exhorts all Americans to work to dismantle the legacy of racism and to imagine the best of what is possible.

Sindy Pierre-Noel is the senior manager of programs at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

September 25, 2020

 

For today's NCSCvirtual wrap-up series, I'm sharing tips from my session: Staying Grounded: Implementing and Practicing Trauma-Informed Mindfulness. In this workshop, we learned how the application of mindfulness might help navigate our new reality to stay afloat long enough to, eventually, swim to the shore.  

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is acceptance of what is happening in any given moment, without trying to change it. It is the ability to build awareness around what is happening and make choices about HOW to respond. Simply put, mindfulness provides space, space for us to connect with ourselves, listen, and then act with wisdom. There are many ways that mindfulness can show up in your life. It could be setting yourself apart for a 30-minute meditation or following your breathing patterns for 2-minutes, or paying attention to what you are eating during a meal. Mindfulness is not a specific act; it is a quality of being that you can bring to everything you do. It is a process of honoring your humanity and preparing the body and mind for learning and connecting.  

As we re-enter virtual or in-person classrooms, how will you make space for your imperfections and those of your colleagues and students?

Be. The. Space. Build the Space in DAILY.

Research shows that with simple mindful moments incorporated into your day, increase your ability to be more adaptive and cognitively flexible. Ultimately, we perceive fewer stressors as threats. This shift in perspective allows us to return to the social engagement space.

Here’s a practice to try alone or with your students:

  1. Take a moment to settle in your seat. Notice all the places where your body is in contact with the floor or chair.
  2. Pay attention to any sensations in your body, tingling, tightness, discomfort.
  3. Allow your eyes to close, if that feels comfortable. You can also lower your gaze so that you are looking toward the floor.
  4. Notice what is happening in your mind. Is it filled with thoughts? Can you let them settle for the next two minutes knowing that you can go back to dealing with them when the two minutes are up? 
  5. Take a deep breath and make space for any sensations. Bring some kindness to those areas. Take a deep breath and make space for your busy mind. It is OK if you are having a hard time settling.
  6. Continue to breathe. Each time you breathe in, silently say the word “in.” Each time you breathe out, silently say the word “out.”
  7. After 2 minutes, gently open your eyes. Notice how you are feeling at this moment. Commit to carrying this with you until your next mindful moment.

Simple practices like these and moments where we can feel our feet on the ground and take a deep breath can be a life-saver. Mindfulness provides you tools and space to stay afloat. The shore is visible. Let us swim together. 

You can watch the recording of my session on-demand here. Please use the email that you used to register for the conference to access the session. If you did not participate in NCSCvirtual and would like to watch the session, please click here.  

Tawanna Kane is founder of Inner Resources Project. She has created stress reduction and mindfulness curricula for public school systems, hospitals, research studies, juvenile halls, level III schools and other general adult populations throughout the US.