Sunday, April 26, 2020

Week of April 27th

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 34
April 27th  2020


Happy Birthday Ms. Danielle R & Ms. Sarah M!
Friday, 01MAY20 is Ms. Annie's & Ms. Del's Birthdays!!

Self-care for our Others' Care.   As you know, my husband has been sick (probably with the COVID) for a while.  Two weeks of extreme isolation has led him into quite the mental funk.

He is feeling lonely and unmotivated, and during this period, he has been working online, but he doesn't really understand the significance of what he is doing within the scope of our current state of surviving a global pandemic and impending economic crisis.

Then it struck me...This is exactly what our kids are saying.  This is also what I have heard from several staff!  We're all feeling some version of this anxious malaise.  UAI Staff & their families, our UAI partners and their families, and also our students and their families.

We have an enormous responsibility to support our students and families through this crisis.  In order to do that, we need to first prioritize our own health and self-care so that we have the resources to empathize, understand, and give what is needed.

The CDC gives some tips on how to recognize and combat the anxiety and depression that comes from being physically isolated for so long.  In addition, I found latest NPR's Podcast on loneliness particularly insightful.

STOP.  I know there are some of you readers who skipped over this entire first paragraph.   If that was you, suspend your disbelief for a minute.  If you are still with me, great!

To be successful in the weeks to come, it is imperative that we prioritize filling our cup first (aka putting on our oxygen mask first) so that we can ensure that we successfully bring our students to the conclusion of this schools year.   So, whatever it is that you find regenerative (exercise, healthy eating, meditation, etc), make that a priority part of your day.  That way, you'll be ready to take on the weight of the work that needs to be done!

Perspective Taking and Assuming Positive Intent.  These are two key skills that our students learn explicitly through SEL classes. In an online learning environment, these skills are particularly needed in staff when your ability to gather information to understand what is happening is extremely limited.  Without physical interaction or with only technology-mediated interactions, our ability to accurately analyze data from non-verbal interactions is almost entirely gone.  When that happens, that leads us into making assumptions about our students, and when that happens, that's when we enter the danger zone of the unintended consequences of our unconscious biases.

To combat that, we need to leverage up our use of these two SEL skills.  When students do something in contrast to expectations (e.g. copying, not turning in work late, learning from bed, etc.), it is essential that we first assume positive intent (or at the very least, delay assuming negative intent) and adopt their perspective (which will require some inquiry and data gathering).

  • Ask what happened before narrating to students what they failed to do.
  • Ask students to share their perspective of what was supposed to have happened (i.e. did they understand your directions and expectations).  Just because you said it, wrote it and explained, doesn't mean she sees it the same way you do!
  • Ask students what they plan to do to fix the problem.  Listen and then step up with support where you see they need it.  {hat tip to Rachel for theses tips and ideas!}
Just like my husband, and you all, and me, our students are suffering the same anxiety and depression that this global pandemic is effecting on humans around the globe.  This is manifesting in a lack of motivation to do work, attend lessons, or engage at any level.  

It is not a personal affront to any of us.  

Rather, if we assume the best intention, then we can assume that they are struggling and need some help.  If we take the time to understand their perspectives more (instead of unintentionally operating on our own experiences and thus biases), we will increase our efficacy in supporting them and their families to succeed.

At the end of the day, our goal is to find ways to help our students become successful learners.  To do this from a distance, we have to move ourselves away from blame and punishment, and move our mindsets closer to positive assumptions and understanding of others.

No Harm Grading.  You may have heard the news stories or already fielded questions from kids about the impending decision (from the DOE) about grading.   I have become used to the fact that principals are the last to know anything during COVID, so yeah - I watched the news, too.  Here's what I do know...

On Monday, the Chancellor is calling a meeting with all Principals.  In Friday's daily digest, it did say that decisions around grading policies will be rolled out this week.  Could that be Monday?  Sure.  Will it be?  Who knows?!

I will say (and have said) the following:  At UAI, the grades students earn during marking periods 5 and 6 cannot be treated the same as those from MP1-4.  I am waiting for the Chancellor to release a formal statement prior to creating a formal grading policy.  That said, I do want to hear what ideas you have prior to the policy, so that when it does finally roll out, we can integrate all ideas into a policy that works for UAI.

To-Do This Week

Help Us with the Outreach Lists.  By the 3:30PM on Monday, please update the Remote Learning Tracker with "M"s for any student who did not submit their 2nd graded assessment.  Remember, we're just looking for kids who didn't turn in anything for the core classes this go around.  Also, if she did finally end up submitting for Wednesday, please remove those Ms.

  • FAQs:  
    • What the rush? I don't understand.  If we're allowing students to turn in when they can, then why are we being such a stickler for the due dates?
      • This is ONLY for outreach purposes.  We want to stay on top of kids frequently and early so that they can get into the habit of submitting on Mondays and Wednesdays.  If we stay on top of them early and get the messages to parents now, then we can get most of them into a set pattern, and hopefully ease up as we move on in the month.
    • I know she's turning it in late.  Should I record the M?  I already spoke to a student, and she told me she has to turn things in late.  Should I still put in an M?  
      • NO.  These tracker is ONLY for students for whom we have no idea what is going on.  If you already spoke with her, we do not need to reach out again.
    • Why are we calling everyday?  Parents are getting annoyed. If parents are getting annoyed, we have to adjust our messages.  Calling to check in is different than calling to blame (again - assuming positive intent).  There must be something going on if she can't get the assessment in on time.  We're calling to support - not calling to punish!

Prep for Grade Team Meetings.  This week we will meet in Grade Teams to streamline the workload asks and messaging.  Please check your calendar invite for your team meeting time and agenda.  On Monday, we will be reviewing with families, the more uniform expectations and communications so that they can more effectively support their child's learning at home.

Marking Period 5 ends Friday.  Your feedback has never been as important as it is right now.  Please make sure students are well aware of their standing (grades should be updated in Skedula by now) so that they are not surprised when they get report cards next week.  The last thing we want to do is shock families and students when we're all already dealing with so much shock and extreme emotion.  Put extra focus on clear communications this week.   Each of your students should know their grade prior to next Friday when report cards will come out.


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