“The best leader is one who continually extends grace rather than requiring it from others.” Tyler Reagin
“Give grace” has become the mantra for so many for this time and season that we’re all living in right now. With the rush to put distance learning into place and still support teachers, students and other stakeholders at the same time, it’s so important that we make the conscious decision to give grace to everyone.
Good ole’ Google defines the term grace as “simple elegance or refinement of movement” or “courteous goodwill.” It costs nothing to be kind and give goodwill to others. While everyone is experiencing this for the first time, even you as the school leader, people are looking for answers to their questions such as:
- When is graduation?
- When can I pick up a device?
- When can I come back to school to clean out my locker?
- When can I come and clean out my classroom?
The list goes on and on. As frustrating as it is to hear the same questions from different people over and over and over again, I encourage you to remain calm, kind, and full of grace. There is no guidebook for how a leader should lead their team or their school during a Coronavirus outbreak. However, there are some good practices that leaders can put into place to give grace to those they have invested in as a part of your school’s staff.
Tip #1 – Lead your Team!
Although this is a time in our lives that none of us have ever experienced before, as the leader of your school, your staff will be looking at you to lead them! As the leader, you’re supposed to have all of the answers, right? Wrong! You’ve never been through this before, remember? Your staff will be looking for and expecting as much normalcy as possible right now and you are in a unique position to provide that.
Do you normally have staff meetings on Wednesdays at 3:00 pm? Continue with that! Of course, now you’ll be leading these meetings virtually.
Do you normally email your staff with pertinent information once a week? You can still do that! Record a video and send it to your staff. Send them a link to view these videos via Remind or post them on a Google Site or Microsoft Teams that only your staff has the link to.
Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, has a saying, “Take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space.” As stressed out as you are and as much pressure as you’re under, try not to bring that stress and overwhelm to your team. They will react to what you give them. Bring them positive energy and that’s what you’ll get in return.
Tip #2 – Continue to Maintain your School’s Culture!
ASCD shares with us that: “School culture refers to the way teachers and other staff members work together and the set of beliefs, values, and assumptions they share.” How are your staff members working together right now? Are they even working together? Or are they all working in silos from their individual homes?
Here are a few ideas to continue to build and maintain the culture of your school:
- Have a staff “show and tell!” During your next virtual staff meeting, ask everyone to share what they’ve been binge-watching, what they’re reading, and any hobbies they’ve picked up over the past few weeks! Maintaining a level of person to person interaction will help to continue building the culture that you’ve already established in your school. Perhaps each department could take turns leading your weekly staff meetings.
- Put your cheerleaders to work! Every principal has a set of “go to” people on their staff that carry their vision or the feel “good-ness” of the school and pass it along throughout the building. This is a great time to get some new cheerleaders on your team. Keep those people front and center. They will continue to be a beacon of hope and comfort for the rest of the staff. Get them involved in the day to day of the school. Put them in charge of a committee. Have them brainstorm some ideas that will keep the staff encouraged.
- Continue to keep the vision of the school front and center! Just because we are schooling from home doesn’t mean that we do so with a lower level of accountability, structure, or expectations. Things may be different but we are still in the business of educating our students. Stay positive when addressing your staff. Keep them up to date on the happenings of the school. Keep the expectations high and your staff will work to meet them!
Tip #3 – Check on your People and Give them Hope!
Trust me, your people are not okay. Even though we’ve been at this for about a month and a half, your staff is still trying to figure out their day to day routine, as are many of the rest of us. Some of your staff are not only working from home, teaching from home, being your school’s bookkeeper from home, etc, but a lot of them have also been thrown into the world of being a homeschool teacher.
Make sure that your team is safe and that they first, have everything they need from a personal perspective, and second, have everything they need to do their job. A phone call goes a long way. A note in the mail goes a long way. A text message goes a long way. It doesn’t have to take long and it doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Your staff just wants to know and be reminded that what they are doing does make a difference, that they do matter, and that the hard work that they’re doing is appreciated.
At the end of the day, we are all just doing the best we can with what we have! Check on your team and keep them encouraged. When your team feels valued and appreciated, they will work hard for you when you need them to. See them and make them feel valued.
“Extending grace is a trait every leader needs to have. It’s also a trait that will help you develop other leaders. Be the grace-giving leader.” (Joseph Lalonde)
Natasha Rachell, a passionate educator, is an alternatively certified high school science teacher turned edtech enthusiast! Currently, Natasha is a Digital Learning Specialist for Atlanta Public Schools. Natasha has immersed herself into the instructional technology space and has earned several certifications, awards and accomplishments, some of which include: Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert, Google Certified Innovator (MentorMeEdu) and Trainer, Apple Teacher, Surface Master Trainer, and Flipgrid Ambassador. She has a Bachelors in Biology Pre-Med, a Masters in Education Administration, a Specialists in Curriculum and Instruction and is finishing her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership with an Emphasis in Effective Schools. Natasha was selected to take part in the first cohort of Our Voice Academy through EdTechTeam, a group of minority educational technology leaders from across the nation. Natasha has presented at both the local and national level. She is ecstatic to lead the work as we transition into 21st century classrooms through blended learning opportunities, BYOD, professional learning for instructional technology and digitally connected classrooms. You can learn more about Natasha by following her on Twitter @apsitnatasha, on Instagram @natashabrachell or by visiting her website at www.natasharachell.com.