I had a Coaching Letter almost ready to go on Tuesday night. I can’t remember why I decided to send it on Wednesday morning instead, but on Wednesday morning it was nowhere to be found. Apparently I wrote the whole thing without saving? Stupid mistake. I was too annoyed and frustrated to try and re-create it, and now I barely remember what it was about. So much for grit.
I do know that I talked about how hard it was to create Module 3, about teaching and learning, of the Center’s Re-Opening Schools Design Workshop—because of how much material is out there now, because the task is so vast, because details are so scant. I kept a list of the sources I consulted and/or employed while creating the module and I continue to add to it. If you have any suggestions for resources to add, or if you are looking for something in particular, please let me know. My email and phone info are on every Coaching Letter.
Because not everyone involved in working directly with teachers is part of their district’s re-opening team, we decided to offer a couple of extension sessions for teacher leaders, coaches, department chairs, teacher supervisors, etc. The first one of those is basically a repeat of the Module 3 presentation I just did, and the second one is more about what “mezzanine leaders” (educators whose work is mostly between teachers and the formal leadership structure) can and should be doing to support high quality instruction. The first of these extension workshops is this Wednesday but there’s still time to sign up—more info in this flyer.
The other thing I remember about Tuesday’s lost Coaching Letter is that I went on a bit of a rant about this article, which misunderstands and misuses the work of Abraham Maslow. For more on Maslow’s misappropriated hierarchy, see CL #106. The article that irritates me so much advocates that educators attend to some student needs before others—Do they have coping skills to deal with crisis and emotions? comes before Do they have access to instructional materials? and Skills for online/remote learning. Does it not occur to the author that if kids had adequate access to online learning and instructional materials, they wouldn’t have as big a crisis to cope with? I’m not suggesting that kids don’t need high quality food, shelter, and care. I’m suggesting that these things are not sequential—that if we don’t provide them all at once along with high quality curriculum and instruction then some students are going to fall further behind.
And even though Tuesday was only four days ago, the world feels like a different place—again. The protests following George Floyd’s murder have spread to over 2,000 cities—this photo essay in the NYT is remarkable. Since the last CL, the Center has published Resources for Responding to Racist and Violent Acts and updated the Social Justice and Equity section of our website. The questions about how black people are treated by the police and the justice system are not going to stay out of education— beyond the stories about the police in schools (from NYT and LA Times, for example), and the many stories about equity and distance learning (see the equity section of resources for hybrid teaching and learning for a brief taste of those). As a profession, we need to be ready to have difficult conversations, not just about individual racist incidents as they occur, but more pro-active conversations about system-wide policies and practices that perpetuate inequity.
This piece, Real leadership for educational equity: If not now, when?, by Josh Starr, former Connecticut superintendent and now chief executive officer of PDK International, is well worth your time and a good place to start. It is written for system leaders, but it has implications for everyone in education. My one quibble is that it leaves educating yourself about what it means to be an anti-racist leader to the end, when the experience of my colleagues and me at the Center is that educators who have not done some work on their own personal stance towards race and equity are always going to avoid conversations that make them uncomfortable. And I cannot resist making another plug for leaders to have coaching training, because skill at listening and having challenging conversations will always stand you in good stead.
Not surprisingly, a much higher than normal number of districts have contacted us lately for help with working on equity in their organizations. I have no doubt that equity will continue to account for a larger and larger slice of the Center’s work, both as a stand-alone body of work, and at the intersection of other work—leadership, or coaching, for example. For the last few years, the Center has hosted an Equity Institute every October. We are working on how to translate that experience online—quite daunting, given how the EI is structured, but necessary, so I’ll keep you posted on that. In the meantime, please check out our partner organization, the Amistad Center’s Juneteenth Virtual Celebration.
I hope you continue to find the Coaching Letter valuable—allow me to prompt you yet again to email me if you have feedback. I hope you and your families are staying well. And I hope you will let me know if there is anything else I can do for you. Best, Isobel