To School Principals and Instructional Leaders at the District Level,

I write this to you as we are on our umpteenth day of quarantine, trying to get back to some semblance of normal…whatever that means anymore!

As I’ve taken a couple of weeks to just watch what schools and districts are doing to gear up for a long time of no students in the schools, something has emerged that really concerns me.  DEEPLY CONCERNS ME.  And I think you need to know it and recognize it, if this describes you.

I am seeing educators scrounging for more materials, more daily schedules, more portals for more activities to do with kids via Zoom, more teaching plans, more online resources…MORE MORE MORE.

Hmmmmm…this sounds a LOT like what we have tried to get away from: confusing and overwhelming teachers.

Before we had even heard of the coronavirus and Covid-19, we had issues in schools: we had overcomplicated things to the point where teachers were overwhelmed and students weren’t performing anywhere near where they need to be.  But now with this wild time of eLearning and distance learning that was literally shoved upon in one fell swoop, we are back at it with TOO MUCH STUFF.

Let me be very clear: when someone feels like they’re drowning (which is what trying to homeschool your own kids while doing Zoom lessons with your class students must feel like), the last thing they need is more water.

I want you to hear me loud and clear: THEY DO NOT NEED MORE STUFF.

In an effort to be a kind but stern fairy godmother as you are navigating this time, I’ve put together some things I recommend you STOP doing and some things I recommed you START doing.

Here’s what I want you to STOP doing as a way to save and stabilize your teaching staff:

  • Stop keeping up with the Joneses and trying to be leader of the year by giving your teachers more resources.  They don’t need them.
  • Stop sending out another “helpful” resource when you come across it online.  It’s not helpful. It’s not received with joy, even though you intended it that way.
  • Stop buying access for your teachers to portals of new activities and teach-from-home shortcuts.  They don’t have time to decipher what to use and what not to use.
  • Stop acting like teaching from home takes a different skill set than teaching face-to-face.  Yes, the technology might be new, but teachers still have to have a management system, they have to engage their kids and they have to teach explicitly.  None of that has changed one bit.

Here’s what I want you to START doing as a way to save and stabilize your teaching staff:

  • Check in with each teacher via email or phone and ask: “What is the most frustrating thing right now for you and how can I help?”  They need relief…and it doesn’t come in the form of more worksheets or online games.
  • Send an email to your teachers and remind them of these foundational elements of teaching that they already know and how important they STILL are in our current circumstances
    • Greet the students by name on the beginning of each Zoom – let them know you see them…literally!
    • At the start of each lesson, review the behavior rules – they haven’t changed since we were in regular school
    • Give kids structured stand up and stretch breaks a bit more often during the lesson because they are working harder to stay engaged
    • This is not the time to be teaching everything new…see our safe-at-home orders as an opportunity to reivew and solidify the most important skills – that’ll be a huge win if you do just that
    • Be excited to see your students – that joy is contagious
    • Go take a nap.  This is hard.  These are muscles we haven’t flexed before and it’s new.

This is not a time for heroics, this is a time and opportunity to simplify.  Show your teachers it is more than okay to do just that.

(And you go take a nap, too.  This is hard hard work.)

With love and so much admiration,

Jill Jackson

(who is also taking naps even though she isn’t doing the heavy lifting like you are!)