June 15, 2020



Lessons Learned in 10 Weeks, Part 2

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


We sure have learned a lot in these weeks since mid-March when school as we know it stopped. Having lived through several leadership-testing crises in my tenure as a school leader, this one tests all of the lessons I learned on 9/11 as a principal three miles from the Pentagon, sheltering with the DC Sniper, dealing with the aftermath of hurricane Katrina and Wilma in South Florida, accepting refugees after earthquakes in Haiti are a few. These 3 Big Ideas are clearer to me in this new COVID time and I think can guide us out into a new and better educational future.

3 Big Ideas

  1. Take Charge of Challenges, Make a Mindset Shift. During this unusual time, I have lost track of what day it actually is. I can easily recall yesterday and today, and can predict tomorrow, but cannot tell, without looking at my calendar, if that was a Monday or Thursday. I often mention the 1993 movie Groundhog DayTake a peek; I think you’ll agree that these past weeks have felt a lot like Bill Murray portrays. In the  Deloitte  article series referenced in Lessons Learned in 10 Weeks, Part 1, the authors propose our mindset shifted from frenetic activity in the early stages of the virus to a more settled, albeit uncomfortable, sense of uncertainty. Here is a summary of the main points and their implications as applied to business and education.

     *To explore the components of trust listed above, see Tanmay Vora’s Sketchnote summary of the key points made by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in their Harvard Business Review article titled “The 3 Elements of Trust.”
  2. Remember What Works. Some of the great practices, procedures, and protocols we have in place for our face-to-face instruction can be applied in a distance setting. Synchronous vs Asynchronous Learning by Jennifer Casa-Todd reminds us that, “The act of verbalizing helps students build bridges between different ideas and concepts, thus helping them retain information more effectively.” I have always paid attention to the Mary Budd-Rowe’s 10:2 Theory and built into my lessons active processing. Clock Buddies is a favorite and one that I continue in a virtual setting. Students are paired by time and share their phone numbers, so that when I say, “Meet with your 3:00 buddy and discuss…” they meet on the phone, and I can watch via Zoom.  Jennifer’s article poses many questions, concerns, and potential solutions related to feedback from parents, students, and teachers. I love Jennifer’s Virtual Classroom Meeting Norms which she invites readers to adapt and use. I plan to adapt these for my graduate students.



  3. Determine What’s Essential… Really Essential. I mentioned the importance of the master schedule in Lessons We Learned in Ten Weeks, Part I and add here what to plan for in your master schedule. You and your schedule must ensure that no student misses out on essential grade level content. Now, focus on the essential curriculum for a few minutes. You will need to revise the essential standards for each grade level and course. What you did before won’t be helpful now. You need only a few essential essentials. Plan to collaboratively teach this at least twice; agree on what is going to be taught and assessed; communicate clearly with the next grade and be selective, really selective, about what’s essential. Recordings of an important webinar presented by Mike Mattos can be found at: Mind the Gaps: Planning Now to Target Learning Gaps Next Fall. To capture what Mike lays out in the webinar, let’s use mental imagery to visualize what we need to do. See an empty jar as representative of a school day or year waiting to be filled. Next, picture a pitcher filled to the brim overflowing with state learning standards out of which we must identify the essential standards we will pour into a substantial but limited in size drinking class for all students to master.  And finally, visualize a smaller glass filled with the contents (learning standards) we will blend in as a “smoothie” for some learners to fill the gaps from missed learning opportunities and to provide additional power for others. 

    In the second session of this three-session webinar series, Julie A. Schmidt, Jeanne Spiller, and Heather Frizielle use the metaphor of “settling the ball” from soccer. First, we settle the ball, position it, see the field, and decide where to go next to score. They remind us that while COVID closures are out of our control, we can and must control our individual and collective readiness. We can and must move from fear, anxiety, and scarcity to proactively developing a strategy using solid information. They use a flashback and flash forward approach to help get clear on missing prerequisite skills. You can get this resource from the weninar link above when you view the webinar. Here’s another tip when deciding what’s essential: to be an essential skill (aka prerequisite) you spend a lot of time teaching it; you spend time assessing it; you will hold data driven conversations about it; you will intervene on it; and a student cannot move on without it.



“Tough times never last…tough people do.” 
–  Rev. Dr. Robert H. Schuller


“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
–  Confucius


1 Question

How will you energize your team to imagine and embrace a new future?


About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.


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