By Sharon Kebschull Barrett, March 22, 2020.
We’ve heard from teachers nationwide what a busy, anxious week the past one was, preparing to do all teaching and learning at home. But we’ve also heard how so many multi-classroom leaders (MCLs) are forging ahead, preparing to continue strong team leadership from afar.
As the week wound down, MCL Fred Hoffmann, science MCL at Fairview Elementary in Guilford County Schools and an Opportunity Culture Fellow, took a few minutes while driving with his father and young children to tell me about what he’s done to prepare for coming weeks with his team, and the stresses and positive signs he’s seen.
Hoffmann has focused on providing strong support for his team, through Zoom meetings, personal emails, and planning how they will reach students to meet their needs. What feels most important for his team teachers, he said, is helping them plan a consistent workflow and maintain the habits and routines they have already established for their students. They should rely on what they’ve already been doing, he said–their good, direct instruction.
Because students’ access to technology and time online may be inconsistent, the teachers have decided to assign work for the week on Mondays that is due on Thursdays, along with a quiz, leaving Fridays for individual corrective or enrichment instruction. Their work will include do-now assignments that serve as reviews, teacher-produced videos, and links to other content.
The team already uses Canvas for their learning management platform, which eases the transition.
“We’ve already created that outline of five or six things we want to draw kids’ attention to each week, and I can help put stuff in there with [a team teacher], so that way we’re building the course together,” Hoffman says.
Canvas allows Hoffman to serve as a co-teacher. “That’s probably the biggest thing right now, because this is definitely new for elementary—being full-online instead of being somewhat interactive.”
Like many teachers, Hoffman finds himself having to balance work and childcare. Because he and his wife took their children out of day care, he spent last week getting up early to work before they woke up. He then would lead “daddy school” in which they adhere as much as possible to their daycare routine, send them off for free-play time so he could complete a few MCL tasks, then work again in the evenings and on weekends.
Such disrupted work schedules led Hoffman to stress to his team that “our workflow is going to be inconsistent, so give some grace to kids, too.” Some students may be babysitting siblings during the school day, for example; he recommends helping students take some responsibility to figure out a schedule that lets them help family and get work done.
Hoffman’s principal is encouraging teachers to be in personal contact with three to five students or families each day, as a way to handle the workload without being overwhelmed.
Principal leadership has been crucial during this fast transition, and the principal sent out a flow chart showing who works with whom while everyone is at home.That way every staff member, including those not now on an MCL team, has instructional and personal support. “I think that’s been a big part of it, just having that flow chart so no staff member falls through the cracks right now.”
It was definitely a high-stress week for teachers, he said, starting with very basic questions about their livelihoods in the face of conflicting news reports.
The one positive he sees from the disruption: “I’m excited for the general public to really, really see the type of employees and the type of people that educators are, and hopefully from all of this they really see how valuable this profession is, and they’ll invest in it a little bit more.”
Other video clips of Hoffmann speaking on key elements of instructional leadership and excellence can be seen here and here.