How one district manages the new remote school year by focusing on social-emotional learning first

Everyone has a crazy COVID story. For Brigantine, NJ Superintendent Glenn Robbins, it goes something like this—lead a school district through a global pandemic having hardly met the students, parents, or faculty.

In this conversation with eSchool News, Glenn details the never-ending variables of getting back to school in 2020 and how the priority should be well-being first. In some cases, technology can help–not hinder.

Related content: Hard work is helping these schools thrive during COVID-19

eSN: You started in this position just a few weeks before the madness began right?

GR: Yes, I started here in February, and then the whole world shut down in the middle of March. I had to quickly start getting to know everybody. We didn’t know what this was going to look like or how long would we be out for. We brought in our city manager, we brought in our mayor, we brought in our administrative team, our teachers, plus a couple of parents. You name it. We all sat together in one big group and said, “Look, this is not about leadership titles and ego here. This is about leadership for what’s best for our community.”

Everyone has a crazy COVID story. For Brigantine, NJ Superintendent Glenn Robbins, it goes something like this—lead a school district through a global pandemic having hardly met the students, parents, or faculty.

In this conversation with eSchool News, Glenn details the never-ending variables of getting back to school in 2020 and how the priority should be well-being first. In some cases, technology can help–not hinder.

Related content: Hard work is helping these schools thrive during COVID-19

eSN: You started in this position just a few weeks before the madness began right?

GR: Yes, I started here in February, and then the whole world shut down in the middle of March. I had to quickly start getting to know everybody. We didn’t know what this was going to look like or how long would we be out for. We brought in our city manager, we brought in our mayor, we brought in our administrative team, our teachers, plus a couple of parents. You name it. We all sat together in one big group and said, “Look, this is not about leadership titles and ego here. This is about leadership for what’s best for our community.”

I can tell you that this is a community that has persevered many times before—Superstorm Sandy for example—so they were up to the task and we remained collected throughout the spring. And then, in the summertime when we started gearing up to possibly bring everybody back, we got out there once again, asking, “Hey, would you like to be part of this massive push to get our students back into the buildings?”

eSN: But six months later you’re still stuck in remote mode.

GR: Once we got to the eleventh hour, we had to, unfortunately, start remotely, due to staffing issues and I could not guarantee the safety and health and welfare of all of our children and staff. So now we were asking, “How do you create an empathetic experience to parents and to kids in this weird virtual setting?”

Even though they had done it in the spring, kids have brand new teachers, so how do you build that relationship with them? So our first day of orientation, we held it outside and the parents came by certain scheduled times and they got to meet their teachers outside, got their materials, got Chromebooks and any assistance they needed. So it was okay face-to-face interaction. And we tried to make it as fun as we could.

eSN: How has having the teachers broadcast from their classrooms versus their kitchen tables improved the situation?

GR: I think having the connectivity and the wi-fi resources has been an exponential help to allow us to grow here. (Teachers working from home) was always a struggle last year. When all this first came to fruition, they would ask, “Can we go into the building and get something real fast?” And we were like, “No, you can’t,” because we still didn’t know what was what at that time. Now we know we can send work home and so forth on top of a Chromebook so that’s been a tremendous boost.

I also think since we’re back in a setting where we’re out of our house. We’ve taken a big step forward for our psychological safety and saying, “Okay, I’m back in a classroom setting. I know kids are coming back eventually, hopefully, sooner than later. And I can get back into my routine. I can have my room set up the way I want to be set up safely when these kids do come back.” So, you know, it’s a bunch of little wins in there

eSN: Zoom has been getting a bad rap as a teaching tool. How do you see it differently?
source: Read More, eSchool News

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