At the onset of the pandemic, the Fund asked City Schools students, teachers, and principals to share their experience of the shift to remote learning. A year later, the Fund has followed up with the same individuals for their perspective on the 2020-2021 school year. In our fourth blog post of this series, LaQuisha Hall, Baltimore City Public Schools’ 2018 Teacher of the Year, shares some of her insights since transitioning from her role as a classroom educator to a teacher leader coach. You can read her essay from May 2020 here.
Transitioning from a classroom educator to a teacher leader coach has taught me so much over the past 9 months. One of the major lessons I learned is that effective leadership stems from first walking in the shoes of those you lead. My experience as a classroom educator, with many days of triumph as well as days of hopelessness, better prepared me for my leadership role. I approached my position posing internal questions like what would I have wanted or needed at this time? What supports did I lack that I can now offer to the teachers I lead? What was most essential to me hearing and receiving at this time of the school year? These questions led to me identifying the following:
- Mute transcends Zoom. There was considerable noise surrounding education, what educators should and should not do. Logging into an online platform and being told to “mute” was common. What should have also been common is sharing with educators that they needed to mute the noise of the media, work extended beyond the hours they committed to and the noise of blame being shouted by voices who had not stepped foot into a classroom. It was essential for educators to hear that it was okay to turn it all off especially when feeling guilt or struggling to create boundaries with their home/work balance.
- Leading with sincerity and check-ins builds relationships. Educators have been asked to support scholars through Social Emotional Learning (SEL). This needed to be modeled and demonstrated for educators as well. The same way scholars learn a lesson and are then expected to demonstrate they grasped the skills, we also need to do this for educators. Frequent needs assessment surveying was one of the most important actions this year.
- Educators are naturally creative, resourceful and whole. As noted in the book, Co-Active Coaching (Kimsey-House, Sandahl & Whitworth), “When we take a stand for other people’s natural creativity and resourcefulness, we become champions on their behalf, not worried hand holders.” We absolutely must provide a blueprint and maintain standards, but also invite professionals to BE professionals. Educators were so innovative and determined to create engaging spaces for our scholars online. When we allow them to BE, we become a champion of those who support our scholars, communities and schools in thriving.
My classroom experiences were invaluable to creating space for those who trusted me to guide them during a challenging journey. No one has all of the answers to how pandemic education should look, but all of us without a doubt know how we should all feel in a profession we love and demonstrate grace to ourselves and other daily.