The 2020-2021 school year has been a roller coaster to say the least. Schools across the country are having to adhere to special guidelines and safety protocols in order to stay open for in-person learning. NPR reports the following statistics on schools offering in-person instruction versus remote learning as of the beginning of November:
- 37.8% of students will be attending schools that only offer virtual learning.
- 35.7% of students will be attending schools offering traditional, in-person learning every day.
- The remainder, 26.5% will be attending schools that offer a hybrid schedule of two or three in-person days per week.
Principals are instrumental in setting the tone and culture of this new educational experience. Here are five ways that principals can help their students and staff weather the COVID19 storm and ensure quality a education program that is either in-person or remote:
- Model proper safety protocols
Masks are mandated in most schools that are open for in-person learning. Principals need to model proper mask wearing behaviors by always having a mask on properly. It is also important to keep paper masks on hand for students and teachers who forget their masks or who need a new one throughout the day.
- Greet students are the door
Coming to school in a mask can be scary and off-putting for many of our younger students. Having a friendly “masked” face at the door or gate welcoming them back to school will be an added comfort to students during these tough times. Being visible will also reassure parents that their children are safe at school.
- Attend remote teaching sessions
Principals spend a lot of time supporting teachers in the traditional classrooms by conducting walk-throughs and observations. Administrators should continue this practice during remote learning. Principals can join remote sessions, participate in discussions or facilitate a guest lesson. It is important that students and teachers “see” their principal in action during remote learning.
- Get creative with school communication
Parents are stressed more than ever having to balance remote working, leaving their children at home with a caregiver to watch over remote learning, or dropping them off at school in this new reality, all while possibly dealing with financial constraints and potential job losses. Principals need to reach out to parents often, ensuring them that their children are safe and receiving the best education possible. Some ideas for getting creative with communication are
- Sharing pictures / videos from school via social media
- Highlighting teachers on a weekly / monthly parent video call
- Virtual coffee with the principal
- Sharing student work virtually
- Setting expectations for remote teacher work hours
Teachers who are working remotely are experiencing many challenges that are unique to their situation. It is not uncommon for teachers to be working late into the night emailing parents, creating lessons, and preparing for the next day. In our quarantine reality, it is easy for teachers to slip into the routine of over-working and over-stressing. Principals need to be supportive about setting realistic work expectations and reminding teachers to unplug and recharge so that they can be fresh for the next day.
Dr. David Franklin is District Strategy Consultant for Nearpod, an experienced school administrator, education professor, curriculum designer, and presenter and has presented at national and international education conferences.