Leaning into Crisis as an Administrator

Guest post by Jane Core Yatzek

As I write this post many schools are still welcoming students for the first nine weeks of school and establishing routines and procedures.  Children are still learning classmates’ names and nuances, the new bus stop routes, and may even still have a few unsharpened pencils in their school supplies.  Everyone is enjoying the newness and hope that infuses the beginning of the school year.  This is a beautiful time in each school year; until abruptly, one day it is not.

Inevitably someone in your classes, on your staff, or in your school community will experience a crisis this year.  It will cause ripples across your school much like a stone thrown into a calm pool.  Crisis takes an infinite number of forms; it is the death of a parent, the house fire that displaces a family, the tragic accident that injures students in your community or on a national stage, or a staff member diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.  The crises may have different causes and names but they bring out the same fear, hurt, and vulnerability in our school families.  There will be similar symptoms too – tears, withdrawal, anger, acting out, and confusion.

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Our response is what can be unique.  What if instead of just tissues, time, and “soldiering on” we encouraged our students, staff members, and school communities to share our raw feelings and lean into the crisis?  What if we talked openly about the fears and hurt, aware and kind to our own vulnerability and that of others?  What if we acknowledged our self-perceived weaknesses and defined the questions we have as we try to figure out if and how we move forward?  Could we model for our students how to not be paralyzed by our worry?  Would we find that we are almost always more supported than we ever thought possible just by sharing our crises with our trusted school friends, colleagues, and community?

There are many resources for administrators wanting to create a culture of trust for their staff and for helping teachers create a culture of trust in their classrooms.  One idea is to utilize the structures we use for inquiry to support our questions that arise in times of tragedy (Daniels, 2016).  Another idea is to work on building safe spaces to be open to our fearful or anxiety-ridden experiences (Brown, 2016).  Still another idea is to build upon our natural compassion for those feeling distress and reach out to folks within and beyond our circle when they express their uncertainty or discomfort, building a deeper and wider net of compassion and active listening. Finally, offering debriefing time and professional support for all school community members impacted initially or peripherally by crisis is important for physical and mental well-being (UCLA-SMHP, 2016).

Whatever the method, it is universally reassuring to know we are not alone when facing the situations that leave us struggling with hard emotions or feeling exposed.  It helps people to know that others care for them even when their emotions make them feel that they are unlovable. Crisis will happen this year, and when it does, let’s take time discover the growth that can occur in us as individuals and within our school communities when we grapple with the reality that our collective power may reside in our shared weaknesses.

Jane Core Yatzeck is a doctoral student in Curriculum Leadership at William & Mary School of Education.  She has 20 years of experience in education; first as a special education and general education elementary school teacher, and then as a school administrator at the middle and elementary levels.  She can be reached at jacor2@email.wm.edu or on Twitter @jcoreyatzeck.

Resources:

Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead.  Gotham Books:  New York, New York.

Daniels, H. (2017) The curious classroom. Heinemann: Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Lichstein, R., Schonfield, D.J. & Kilne, M. (1994). School crisis response: Expecting the  unexpected.  Educational Leadership 52, 3, p. 79-83 Retrieved from:  http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov94/vol52/num03/School-Crisis-Response@-Expecting-the-Unexpected.aspx

University of California Los Angeles Mental Health in Schools Project (2016).  Responding to a crisis at school: A resource aid.  Retrieved from: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/crisis/crisis.pdf

Nurturing Curiosity in Our Students and Our Teachers

By Sarah P. Hylton, M.Ed., SURN

We all want students who are inquisitive and engaged, and the 6th annual Joy of Children’s Literacy & Literature Conference on October 5 provided a multitude of ideas and strategies for creating classrooms that capitalize on students’ natural wonder, passion, and curiosity. Breakout sessions on using inquiry learning, teaching with images and dialectical journals, creating games and text sets, and engaging with poetry every day were bookended by keynote speakers Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Georgia Heard.

Pictured left to right: Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Community Engagement, Dr. Denise Johnson; SURN Director, Dr. Amy Colley; and Keynote Speakers Georgia Heard and Harvey “Smokey” Daniels.

Pictured left to right: Associate Dean of Teacher Education and Community Engagement, Dr. Denise Johnson; SURN Director, Dr. Amy Colley; and Keynote Speakers Georgia Heard and Harvey “Smokey” Daniels.

Smokey Daniels, author of The Curious Classroom, contends that our students are already curious; in fact, they come to us that way. Our task is to tap the power of their amazing and interesting questions by creating classrooms that honor this curiosity. Citing the research on curiosity, creativity, project-based learning, persistence, and genius hour, Daniels offers a “ladder” of ten key strategies for creating a culture of student-directed inquiry:

  1. Demonstrate your own curiosity
  2. Investigate ourselves and our classmates
  3. Capture and honor kids’ questions
  4. Begin the day with soft starts
  5. Check your news feed
  6. Hang out with an expert
  7. Pursue kids’ own questions with mini-inquiries
  8. Address curricular units with mini-inquiries
  9. Lean into a crisis
  10. Learn with partners and pioneers

Although Daniels’s ideas can certainly foster classrooms that engage primarily in inquiry learning, he encourages teachers to start with small commitments of time. Many of his ideas take fewer than fifteen minutes to implement, allowing teachers to start small and to continue as they see the positive results of engaging students in seeking answers to their own (and each other’s) questions.

Daniels also focuses on using images to spark student inquiry, reminding us that “text” can be interpreted broadly. He invites us to move beyond the narrow definition of text as printed words on a page and to understand that in addition to the written word, student wonder can be also be engaged by working with photographs, artwork, cartoons, diagrams, charts, and music.

If Daniels invites students to explore their curiosity by opening their minds, Georgia Heard invites them to do so by opening their hearts. Heard, author of Writing Toward Home, Awakening the Heart, Heart Maps and others, relayed her passion for helping students explore their innate sense of wonder through writing. Working from a simple heart drawn on the page, Heard urges students to explore those people, memories, places, and ideas about which they feel passionate by drawing and doodling images, supplemented by words and phrases for clarification or expansion, that resonate with them. The opportunity to slow down, to ponder their beliefs and ideas, and to commit them to paper creates the foundation upon which students build pieces of writing based on their own natural sense of wonder.

Although Daniels and Heard’s ideas center primarily on creating deeper student learning and engagement, savvy instructional leaders may well consider how to adapt Daniels and Heard’s ideas to promote a learning culture among their faculty.  Given that “today’s students urgently need to see as many thoughtful, curious, resourceful, and critical adults as they can” (Daniels, 2018, p. iii), it is incumbent upon school leaders to promote a school culture where faculty can develop their own curiosity and use it for school improvement. Design Thinking for School Leaders by Gallagher and Thordarson (2018) urges leaders to cultivate wonder intentionally by building empathy through curiosity, by routinely posing questions to all stakeholders, by honoring their creative ideas, and by designing opportunities to challenge the status quo.

Many of Daniels’s suggestions for how to honor and pursue students’ questions can easily be adapted to foster adult learning among faculty. Modeling curiosity, building relationships, honoring everyone’s ideas and questions, providing outside expertise, and engaging in research to satisfy our curiosity all promote a learning culture within our schools. Heard’s ideas, too, find a place in such leadership by inviting faculty to explore what they feel passionate about when it comes to students and teaching and learning.

Jennifer Abrams Helps Us Use Our Best Voice

By SURN Staff

SURN leaders often share the need to continue developing human resources skills and competencies as they strive to cultivate collaborative cultures. This means communicating well, crossing generational divides, and leveraging conflict. We are pleased that Jennifer Abrams, international communications and educational consultant, will join us at the 22nd annual Leadership Conference this year.

Jennifer Abrams is a communications and education consultant and author.

Jennifer Abrams is a communications and education consultant and author.

Jennifer brings a dynamic keynote based on her popular workshop, Swimming in the Deep End – What Does It Take, to open the day Tuesday, June 19. “No matter what role we play in a school or district, we all want to make a difference. However, things move fast in education these days, and often in our communications we are left confused, overwhelmed and not as successful as we could be. We need to build up a skill set of effective decision making capabilities, ‘resistance management’ communication strategies and for the sake of our health, our ‘stress tolerance (Abrams, 2018).’” Additionally, Jennifer will lead a concurrent session later that morning.

Jennifer’s books are best-sellers. In Having Hard Conversations, Jennifer leads us through replicable processes as we navigate work-related difficult situations as leaders. The sequel, Hard Conversations Unpacked: The Whos, the Whens, and the What-Ifs, takes readers on a deeper dive into the nuanced world of communication. The Multigenerational Workplace: Communicate, Collaborate, and Create Community provides readers with tools for navigating beyond their personal “generational filters” as they lead.

We hope you’ll join us as we learn from Jennifer Abrams and our other esteemed presenters at this year’s conference. You will leave with tools, resources, and experiences designed to enhance your leadership performance.

A little more about Jennifer: Jennifer considers herself a “voice coach,” helping others learn how to best use their voices – be it collaborating on a team, presenting in front of an audience, coaching a colleague, supervising an employee and in her new role as an advisor for Reach Capital, an early stage educational technology fund. Jennifer holds a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University and a Bachelor’s degree in English from Tufts University. She lives in Palo Alto, California (www.jenniferabrams.com/about/).

 

Diane Sweeney, Coming Soon!

SURN is pleased to have Diane Sweeney, author of Student Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals and Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level, join us for our Leadership Academy this summer on June 22-23, 2015.

Diane has been a national education consultant since 1999.  She taught and coached in the Denver Public School system before serving as a program officer at the Public Education and Business Coalition in Denver.  She is a well-respected educator who focuses on coaching and professional development.

Student Centered Coaching: A Guide for K-8 Coaches and Principals (Corwin Press, 2010) focuses on school-based coaching designed to impact student learning.  Professional development should focus on how to best support teachers and collaborate with them in order to design successful and targeted instruction.  The book focuses on the critical role of principal in developing and sustaining a culture of learning.

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Student-Centered Coaching at the Secondary Level (Corwin Press, 2013) is the follow-up to Sweeney’s 2010 best-selling book and focuses on the principles and tools of student-centered coaching in order to meet the challenges in middle and high schools.  Coaching focused on the student can allow the coach to provide feedback that has a direct impact on student achievement.

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For more information on Diane, please visit www.dianesweeney.com.  For more information on SURN’s Leadership Academy and how to sign up, please visit our website for more information or email us surn@wm.edu.

Review of The Wrap-Up List

The Wrap-Up List is a great YA book told from the point of view of Gabriela.  Gabriela lives in a modern-day town where one percent of the fatalities happen in a very strange way, called “departing.”  Gabriela’s group of friends is fascinated with the concept, until Gabriela receives her own death letter.

The book has an interesting mystery to explore in this alternate world where Gabriela and her friends must deal with first loves, a country going to war, and the idea of dying so young.

I recommend this thoughtful and engaging book to readers in grades 7-12.

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Review of Dear Teen Me

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Book review by Julie K. Marsh, Graduate Assistant

Dear Teen Me (DTM) caught me off guard in such a happy way.  I enjoy reading about writers and artists and the paths they took to where they are now.  DTM took this a step further by including advice from a group of young adult authors to their teenage selves.  The stories they share, some in narrative text and others in more visual ways, are about insecurities, first crushes, friendship, love, bullying, and everything in-between.

The letters range from heartbreaking to hilarious and truly give a glimpse into the authors’ young lives full of curiosity, passion, and teenage angst.  These glimpses offer the reader a way to hear the authors’ internal voices and the ways most of them were able to incorporate their early life trials into their creative work.

I wholeheartedly recommend this book to both young and old.  I think young adults will welcome the experience of sharing their current thoughts and feelings with an adult who became a successful, creative person even though they experienced the trials and tribulations of being a teenager.  Adults will also enjoy the book and have the opportunity to reconnect with their younger selves in order to reflect on where they were and how far they have come in their own lives.  DTM truly was a wonderful reading experience, one I think we can all enjoy!

And the winner is…

It is official!  To Kill a Mockingbird is our winner!  Mindset came in second place and Chicka-chicka-boom-boom came in third place.

Thank you to everyone who voted!  We look forward to another March Reading Madness next year.

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

MRM March 31st

 

 Click to Zoom

More Information on the Books:

To Kill a Mockingbird

Mindset

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

 

March Reading Madness Finals

Time for the finals of March Reading Madness!

It is officially time to choose your favorite book!  SURN’s version of March Reading Madness has been so much fun, and we appreciate everyone who voted.  We need your votes one last time to choose first, second, and third place!  Please take a minute to vote, and be sure to share this with your friends, colleagues, and students.

Will your book win?  Check back next week for the results!

March Reading Madness Schedule:

March 24th – Semi-finals

March 31st – Final Championship

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

 MRM March 24th

Click to Zoom

How to Vote:

Please visit our Google form to vote.  It should only take about one minute—it is super quick! 

More Information on the Books:

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Mindset

To Kill a Mockingbird

MRM Quarter Finals

March Reading Madness is Heading into the Quarter Finals!

Your votes have been counted, and it is time for the quarter finals of March Reading Madness!  Thanks to everyone who has voted so far.  Let’s keep up with the reading madness by voting.  We are down to four fantastic books.  Check out the titles and make sure to vote!

Please also share this post with your friends, colleagues, and students.

March Reading Madness Schedule:

March 17th – Quarter Finals

March 24th – Semi-finals

March 31st – Final Championship

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

MRM March 17th

Click to Zoom

How to Vote:

Please visit our Google form to vote.  It should only take about one minute—it is super quick!

More Information on the Books:

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Mindset

To Kill a Mockingbird

MRM Round 3

The Winners Are In!  Time for Round 3!

Your votes have been counted, and it is time for round 3 of March Reading Madness!  It only takes a minute to vote for your favorite books.  The books with the top votes will move to the quarterfinals next week!  Please also share this post with your friends, colleagues, and students.

March Reading Madness Schedule:

March 10th – Round Three

March 17th – Quarter Finals

March 24th – Semi-finals

March 31st – Final Championship

The Official Bracket Based On Your Input:

MRM March 10th

Click to Zoom

How to Vote:

Please visit our Google form to vote.  It should only take about one minute—it is super quick!

More Information on the Books:

Ruth and the Green Book

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

The Book Whisperer

Teach Like a Pirate

Mindset

Papa’s Mechanical Fish

To Kill a Mockingbird