September 18, 2020

Good Afternoon, Friends!

This has been a full but good week here at SAIS. I confess to writing this from my screened in porch where there is a breeze and falling temperatures in the wake of the remains of hurricane Sally. Many hours have been logged in my office chair this week and I needed a change of scenery that has the somewhat expected, but no less amusing, entertainment of the California giant class pet rabbit terrorizing an overly curious puppy. 

Okay, for the skimmers… I continue to be reluctant to do this because you should be tracking the economy, watching for what your team didn’t learn in the spring so that you don’t end up in a real mess later, being aware of the dos and don’ts of the political season, and the CDC seems pretty important, but the following short list is a good overview of the big picture pieces you should probably keep on your radar.  đź™‚

  • 2021 and Beyond: Leave your sunglasses at home, the future doesn’t look particularly bright, at least relative to COVID going on its way. 
  • Your school is still grieving, even if you are back on campus. This link might help manage it a bit. 
  • Delight in the Possibilities of the future in front of us, even in light of the two previous links 
  • Be aware of the Drama Triangle, great coaching and deflection tool
  • Don’t get caught flat-footed by this new Instagram nightmare for schools

2021 and Beyond

This week was a time to take a step back and digest some big picture thoughts on where we are in 2020-world. Several things are on my mind, including the notion that we very well might be looking at the extent of our normal through 2021, adjusting our expectations around the vaccine, and working to accept this status quo. The first article even mentions recurring outbreaks through 2025. I don’t know about you, but this does not make me want to clap my hands and flit about with joy. And yet, this is not something we can control, so we need to focus on what is in front of us and figure out how to come out of this stronger than we went in. 

Have We Learned What We Needed to in the Spring? 

Many of you have been turning that corner from the everyday to the what’s next, and that is where my head is going, too. There is one thing very much on my mind this week. Have we learned what we were supposed to from online learning? I know, none of us really want to go back to that place. Our schools are still grieving what we lost then and what we have still not gained back (and if that is your school, here are some tips to help address that as a leader). But, distance learning really did illustrate some weaknesses. 

If you believe in the critical future skills for students (and here is a great overview of them from OECD), did your students respond to the shift with the expected level of agency, executive function, and self-motivation? Were your teachers able to shift the nature of their assignments to those that did not require extensive concern about students “googling” the answers? We are all very happy to be back on campus, but did we leave some healthy discomfort behind? 

To help think about these things, I read the NAIS blog from Donna Orem this week, which focused on how online learning will be a part of our future. I do think some online learning will be our future, in part because higher ed is requiring it (and it might never go back to anything resembling the traditional, four-year, all in-person classes again). But, when I read her piece, I think about what students gain from online learning modes, rather than the delivery tools. What if students had a choice to peel off and doing something else once they understood the example given? What if they had greater autonomy during the day? What assignments do kids get excited about? At any rate, as you look to the strategic future, make sure that your school is absorbing what it learned this spring. We very well might be online at some point this year and adopting techniques that make our students more resilient to those shifts and that help our teachers readily shift media but also encourage those 21st Century competencies are worthy objectives. 

Moving Forward

Along those lines, this older McKinsey piece on Delighting in the Possible gave me a good mindset shift. There is a lot dragging on us right now. Many of you have been planning or managing board meetings, calming staff, fielding parent calls, and delight might be a little thin on the ground. Take the time to appreciate that this is a moment when new possibilities are growing, and it is right to find joy in that unseen benefit. Combining that delight with what we have learned from the spring, check out this article from the Christian Science Monitor. It is about fixing inequalities in education (and heavens knows that this pandemic has underscored privilege), but it also highlights trends we should all consider, such as really re-evaluating how we lump grades together and joy-based schooling.  More good learning can be found in this piece, to help us learn from what has been awkward and what has worked in higher ed. Mine it for what is working well so that we can harness those to work for us. 

Employment Related: Burnout, Vaccines, and Politics 

Staff burnout is real, and we had some great insights in our roundtable about how to support our staff. Here are some thoughts on how to clearly reset expectations this year when things are not normal and give your team some room to breathe. 

We have talked a bit about vaccines for students, but you might be curious about mandatory vaccines for staff, both for the flu and when the COVID-19 vaccine is eventually available. This article might help with the legal hurdles. Also, on the employee front – or for almost any other situation where you are managing a difficult personal dynamic – Greg Bamford introduced us to the Drama Triangle, and it’s going into my favorite ways to psychoanalyze my friends, family, and colleagues. 

Speaking of managing difficult situations, I have spoken with some of you about managing the political tensions that are rising. On the quick note, you are not generally state actors. You can limit political signs, t-shirts, masks, hats, flags, etc. For your own mental health, this seems like a wise path. Fisher and Phillips has more advice on helping to bridge this gap. Want more? Schwartz Hannum goes deeper into the weeds with this one, including students and teachers, on all things politics on campus. 

Okay, that is enough deep-thinking for the day… How about some quick hits

  • Kevin Mullally at Marist gets the gold star for flagging the updated CDC indicators that came out this week. They might help you finetune your phases. 
  • Keep tracking the economy and what is happening there. I liked this overview from Visual Capital. 
  • Wow, do I like these visuals for classroom teachers around communication triangles around connection, content, and clarity. While designed for online learning, these likely work for many types of delivery, and are still especially relevant as schools continue to work with parents primarily online. 
  • That roundtable also had data around athletics, the CARES Act funding issues, employee high risk activities (like travel), and moving to the next mode of your phase chart. 
  • A few months ago I saw a photo of French school children sitting in chalked squares on a playground and it made me so sad. These 60 socially distanced physical activities will help keep kids active and safe. 
  • This piece with an overview on top changes that might occur in higher ed admissions is a good to digest, and also a good set of trends to watch for some of the aspects of our school admissions cycles that resemble theirs.

In the category of horrible-but-somehow-normal-for-teenagers, a couple of you flagged these “teatime” Instagram pages. Yes, it’s a thing and here is a story to learn more about it. It might be a good time to do some Instagram diving.  

 Alright, you are getting off easy this week, as those are what seems fit to type for now. For those looking for our weekly retro insights, or just news of the weird… Margaret from Judy Blume’s Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret turns 50 this year.  And, did you all know that Joe Seivold was hiding Tom Brady on his campus? I think he’s winning pandemic-2020. 

To close, in case you need something to keep you awake at night, this article was written by AI, but I am sure everything will be fine. 

Take some down time this weekend, friends. We have a long trail in front of us! 

Have a great weekend! 

Debra