Reflecting On Our Team's Reaction and Response to COVID-19

What a year this week has been.

Three weeks ago, our school went on spring break. Three weeks ago, the Leadership Team began preparing for COVID-19 to reach our community. Today is the first day since then that I have had a chance to pause and reflect on how our team worked together to keep our community safe and engaged in mission-driven learning.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to design our school’s digital portfolio system, My Learning. At that time, the digital portfolio as a repository for artifacts of student learning was a budding idea in K-12 education, and Trinity was a pioneer in developing a comprehensive process for elementary-age students. By establishing the purpose of the My Learning portfolio process as deepening student learning and empowering young students through the practice of reflection, we made unique and intentional use of a digital platform otherwise designed for businesses and board rooms. Since then, My Learning has transitioned to a dynamic platform designed for use in schools and easily accessible to parents. See Marsha Harris’s article, Your Child Is Known: The Importance of “My Learning”.

One of the early tools used to facilitate student reflection in My Learning is the “rip it” Reflection Tool. It was inspired by the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy, a classification of ways of thinking used by educators to intentionally engage learners and develop thinking routines. Today, I used it to guide my reflection on one aspect of the past three weeks in order to identify successes and opportunities for growth as we continue on the path of distance learning.

REMEMBER (Recall relevant information): Our head of school called a virtual meeting (the Academic Leadership Team had just left for spring break) to discuss the news and threat of COVID-19. Once mobilized, the Operations department began ordering sanitation supplies and scheduling deep cleaning of the building. The Technology team began preparing equipment that students and teachers would need in a virtual learning environment. The Business office prepared for continuity of business. The Academic Leadership Team began developing a distance learning framework, including a school-wide learning plan template and virtual meeting rooms for all faculty and staff.

When spring break ended and faculty returned to school, the Academic Leadership Team spent the first two days of the week in meetings with faculty to brainstorm ideas and receive feedback about proposed plans. Each hour brought news that indicated the imminent closing of schools. We adjusted our faculty meeting schedule on Wednesday to share the school’s distance learning vision, provide information, and facilitate collaborative planning time. On Thursday afternoon, we announced our closing which was scheduled to begin on Monday. Students received take-home folders the teachers filled with resources on Friday. While still teaching their students during the day, teaching teams collaboratively created a week of grade level learning plans with daily lessons in reading, writing, and mathematics as well as movement and a selection of every Specials class we offer. Plans were completed and posted for families on Monday morning at 8 am.

Distance learning vision: Develop and practice foundational skills through multi-sensory learning experiences

IDENTIFY (Construct meaning): It has never been so clear to me as it was over the past three weeks how closely we work as a team at Trinity to react and respond to the needs of the community. There were some immediate actions taken to keep everyone physically safe and healthy. There were many steps taken to anticipate needs and proactively set up structures that would later respond to the needs of students, families, and employees. This is an important point to consider as we think about decisions that need to be made based on rapid-pace news cycles and feedback. When are we reacting to protect and preserve? When are we responding to underlying needs by building structures, frameworks, and processes?

PUT IT TOGETHER (Analyze what you see): This reminds me of conversations educators regularly have about classroom management and discipline. Some teachers focus a bit more on behavior. How do we enforce the policies put in place to keep students safe and productive? Some teachers focus more on social-emotional learning. How do we create the environment and develop the skills that foster joyful and meaningful learning? It also reminds me of an incident with my son’s turtle, who has recently been escaping from his tank. Our initial reaction to the escape was to create a barrier that would keep the turtle in the tank because he could get hurt falling to the ground or get wedged between the wall and the tank. Then, we started talking about why the turtle is now trying to escape after many years of peaceful existence in the tank. We checked his water temperature and his filter and made adjustments. We spent some time playing with him.

PICK IT APART (Evaluate what you learned): My takeaway is not surprising. It is that both reactions and responses are necessary and essential for the safety and sustainability of our community. Every community must react to changes in a way that will protect its members and maintain their safety. Communities must also think deeply about the longer term needs of its members, anticipating and addressing underlying issues. I am now thinking about how to approach change through two lenses, safety and sustainability.

PLAN TO USE IT (Create a plan): When approaching a challenge or change, I will ask myself and my team two questions: What do we need right now? What do we need going forward?

Distance Learning Week 2 was posted this afternoon. Members of the Academic Leadership Team (Rhonda Mitchell @rgmteach, Sarah Barton Thomas @teach2connect, Jill Gough @jgough, and Marsha Harris @marshamac74) have already been reacting and responding to teacher and parent needs today. I’m grateful to be a member of an incredible community and a part of such a strong team.


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