Oh boy. The past week was a whirlwind for all of us. After our governor announced a mandatory three-week shutdown of all Michigan schools at 11pm on Thursday night, not many Michigan educators were able to sleep. Knowing that I would need rest and that I would no doubt hear all the details of the governor’s address in the morning, I went to bed at about 10pm and slept through the night. I was so thankful that I did.
We had a half-day with students on Friday and it was such a blessing to have that time together. Teachers were in tears, students were in tears, and we needed one another as we tried to process what was happening. It felt like the twilight zone for all of us. We enjoyed a bittersweet but peaceful morning with our students, sent them off with some more tears, and then we gathered as a staff to talk over what we know about the next few weeks. We still had more questions than answers, but we collectively agreed that was okay. We focused on what we know now, what is within our control, and how we can support each other, our students, and their families.
Leading through unmarked territory is surreal at times. Focusing on what the people around me need means that I cannot give into my emotions, yet I need to show empathy and feel with our teachers and students. It is a tricky balance, I am not going to lie. It is exhausting, but it is exactly what I signed up for when I became a principal and I am so proud to do this job. I am so proud of how our teachers rallied around each other. I am so proud of our students for taking the disappointment and uncertainty in stride. Every Friday we make a video announcement for the upcoming week. Here is the video we made that last Friday morning together:
Recently I blogged about a new practice I started with our staff–Weekly Staff Check-Ins via Google Forms. In order to stay connected and provide support to staff while we are off, we are going to continue the weekly check-in with a COVID-19 edition. Here is what that check-in looks like right now, subject to change as we navigate this time together.
As principals around the country adopted this practice after reading my blog (huge honor BTW), many questions arose. Many wondered how to get a good response rate. Of course, it takes staff who are willing to be vulnerable before a leader can get authentic responses from a question like this. I have been so pleased that we have a good response rate and have many staff members asking for help. One key is to respond to the requests for help right away. The form collects email addresses (make sure you click on that in settings) so I know who needs what from me. To hold myself accountable, I highlight those who need help in yellow and then I turn it green after I have responded. Here is an example:
This simple weekly question via Google Forms has so much power to help us stay connected and to help me provide support. As a recap, the keys to success are:
- Collect email addresses so you can respond individually.
- Make sure that staff knows that it is not only okay to be vulnerable, it is necessary especially in times like these.
- Respond right away to requests for help.
I shared this idea on Facebook and one of our families suggested that we do the same type of weekly check-in for all of our school families. I created this form to send out to our families each week, and we will work as a team to respond to their needs.
Just like you, I am working to figure out what this time away from school will look like for me and how I can use it to best serve my community, my family, and myself. I am going to email my #SerendipityEDU community more frequently over these next few weeks in order to provide encouragement and support. If you are not on my email list yet, you can sign up via this link.
Sending prayers for health, peace, and strength to all of you! We are better together and I am thankful for this community of people focused on uplifting each other!
Check out my newest book…a middle grades realistic fiction chapter book called The Serendipity Journal. I am in love with this book for so many reasons, and I hope you and your middle grades readers fall in love with Kip and her journal too!