Since we are creating a completely new environment for schools in Ireland, I think it is very important that we as school leaders support our employees, students and parents in a variety of ways.
– By Marie-Therese Kilmartin, Director, Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, Dublin
As a school principal, it is important to look ahead, look outside, learn and bring this learning back into our school team. It is also important for school leaders to use all support networks that exist in particular through the NAPD, the school administration bodies and the PDST.
It was great that many key Twitter-in-Education users in Ireland agreed on Saturday night that #EdShareIE would be the most widely used hashtag to share resources and support for teachers means that Scoilnet, PDST already exists etc. exist.
Understanding and experiencing change leadership is very important for school principals, as employees are at different stages of engaging in digital technology, many may need more support than others, and many have different domestic circumstances, and we can do a lot about learn everything from other organizations that already have experience in this area.
The China experience
Over the weekend, I tweeted and posted an article by a Chinese-based US teacher on LinkedIn sharing insights and advice from the experience in China, where, like us, they had to learn to adapt together.
Simon Sinek, a global leader in change, announced a great video on LinkedIn that organizations should do a weekly check-in with employees – Have a Huddle. It is very important to get everyone to simply connect on a personal basis to encourage teamwork. If we continue to use our school system, I would like to do so.
Creation of a virtual staff room
The remote link can help switch to a virtual staff room for this downtime to build the increasingly important relationships. I heard from school staff last week that they sent photos to each other showing where they were, exchanged advice on well-being, etc. Checking in with employees is very important as they adapt to the “new work environment”. Schools thrive on teamwork and collaboration. We need that to continue. The teachers are the best resource and support of the other.
Feel-good newsletter for schoolchildren / parents
We plan to develop resources for wellbeing via a newsletter to students / parents as this is so important. Students need to be physically active and we intend to incorporate this into homework. Through our tutor and year head teams, we can continue to support students like we do at school, but I am sure that new problems will arise and we can work together to find solutions based on the experiences of others.
Students’ fears of state exams
Our 6th year students in particular expressed their fears about their oral arrangements, internships, exams, the way to college, the course, etc. These are real fears across the country – to be lived by parents too. We are all looking for security and answers, and there is still none in this ever-changing global crisis. Many will also ask: What about Junior Cycle, CBAs, SLARs? Is this a high stakes exam?
Different circumstances of families
As school principals, we need to know our own contexts, the families we work with. Some students may need to take care of siblings when their parents go to work. In fact, unfortunately, we know that some parents may not be able to work because we hear of layoffs, etc. – a truth that was real to parents I spoke to last Thursday. Healthcare workers are also concerned about children, so we as educators can help make sure that they know that their children have jobs, that their time is filled with activities to do, and that learning continues The feedback from the teachers is effective and develops the skills, understanding and knowledge of the students.
Because everyone is interested in social distancing, home rapprochement can be a new source of stress for many, access to digital technology can also be a problem, and sharing the computer in the home can be problematic, especially since parents may also be from there from working at home. This can reflect inequality and the reality of disadvantage. How do we look after students who have no access at home? Finding the balance will be a new learning experience for all of us. It is important that students continue to receive important news about the appropriate use of social media.
Find ways to support mental health remotely
Students suffering from anxiety and other mental health problems will not suddenly be fine. These students need support and the challenge is to provide this in a new way. How do our learning support advisors and teachers offer this support effectively? Fix any new problems.
Many new challenges
Therefore, there are many new challenges for schools to overcome. There are many new moral / ethical questions. What about the family that is facing financial difficulties and may already be supported by schools through the school meal program? I am aware that one of my deputy headmasters worked on it over the weekend and that cross-organizational support is planned. Some teachers volunteered to help when distribution is needed. These are all new challenges, but with teamwork, creativity, asking questions and exchanging solutions, we can help each other.
Focus of the senior leadership team
These are simply my personal thoughts as we adapt to focus on teaching and learning remotely / online. Our Senior Leadership Team (SLT) will focus on three areas:
1 Teaching and learning – systems and support
2. Student well-being – systems and support
3. Well-being of employees – systems & supports
Remote teaching and learning – a completely different reality
There are also other challenges for the board of directors, such as planning ahead, developing guidelines, staffing and hiring employees. Our usual work behind the scenes at schools will be very different, but I am confident that as educators, we will do our best for the students we serve and the school communities we work in.
Marie-Therese Kilmartin is Director at Coláiste Bríde, Clondalkin, Dublin
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