Digital Expert of the Week

Just Pick the Pineapple: Building Trust in Turbulence

At the veggie market on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 216th Street in Queens, NY, my dad showed me how to pick a pineapple. He said, “It just has to smell like a pineapple and feel right, then it’s good to go.” I nodded in agreement, like I wanted him to really believe that I was following him and that I understood this wisdom. (more…)

5 Keys to Developing a Future-Driven School

This year has demonstrated in extraordinary ways that we’re preparing students for an unpredictable world. We can’t possibly envision the challenges and opportunities our students will experience in their lives beyond school. But we can know with certainty the world is changing rapidly and continuously, and we must prepare them for the unknown. While there may not be another COVID-19, there will be many surprising developments for the rising generation. We must prepare them to be confident, adaptable learners, no matter what they encounter. We can’t just focus on academic training in isolation and think that’s meeting their needs. It’s critical to have a larger vision that prepares students for the future, a vision that’s bigger than test scores, grades, diplomas, or mastering standards. My school’s Virtual Tour will focus on the keys to creating a future-driven approach to education. (more…)

Lead Like a Ninja: How a ‘Fringe’ Virtual Program Anchored A District’s COVID-19 Response

A key job of every school leader is to establish and nurture strong relationships with key stakeholders—not the least of which is the faculty. When you have the opportunity to open a school, those relationships are the foundation on which your school rests, and the ways of work you cultivate become the traditions that guide your school’s future. And while it was always my goal to open a high-performing, innovative virtual school for our community, COVID-19 required my school to step up in a big way. Our stealthy school mascot, Neo the Ninja, came to represent the strategic deployment of the skills, strategies, and curriculum our virtual school refined as we stepped out of the shadows to lead our district through distance learning to close the 2019–20 school year. (more…)

Leading Majority-White Schools as a Black Administrator

As educators prepare for the start of the 2020–21 school year, we are facing unprecedented challenges as we seek opportunities to innovate, collaborate, and implement necessary changes to do what is best for our students. Here’s something you need to know. The combined effects of the murders of Amaud Abrey in Georgia and George Floyd in Minnesota, the nationwide lockdown due to the coronavirus, the recession, massive job loss, and overall feelings of isolation have forced people to become more aware of race, equity, inclusion, or a lack thereof. It’s been interesting to witness history repeat. I also wonder, why now? And now what? As we grapple with the coronavirus and racial unrest, I have been reflecting on my experience as a Black administrator who has led three majority-white schools. (more…)

4 White Lies We Tell Ourselves About Race as Educators

It’s time we shatter barriers to success and learning for people of color, stand against the social injustices in our world, and stop hiding behind the mantra, “I’m white, I can’t speak out on race.” One of our greatest callings as leaders is to bring our school together toward one purpose, unity. This requires leaders to be courageous, bold, and take action in the midst of pushback, uncertainty, and the racist ways that have held people of color back for centuries. (more…)

Don’t Rush Back to Normal

So many of us are anxious to see our kids again, to start a new school year, to make sure our students are okay. We are ready to start over, to have classes in our rooms so we can get eyes and ears on kids, to have breakfasts and lunches in the cafeteria, and to get back to the schedule of the day—a return to normal or a semblance of normal. But I don’t think there is a return to normal.  We have all experienced a major psychological and social event that we have all had to give serious time, effort, work, and attention to. (more…)

Are Schools Ready for What Comes Next?

At the beginning of 2020, no one could have foreseen the impact of the pandemic. In the face of myriad obstacles, educators stepped up to implement remote learning to get through the remainder of the academic year. A post-COVID-19 world will be here eventually, but it is anyone’s guess when that will be. As schools grapple with the unknown questions and challenges at the top of everyone’s mind, here are a few that I hope resonate: (more…)

Effective Walk-Throughs in Our Digital Spaces

Even as schools have transitioned to online learning, it’s heartening to see that this crisis isn’t keeping school leaders from carrying out what I think is one of the true joys of school administration—classroom walk-throughs and visitations. Over the years, my thinking and approach to classroom walk-throughs have evolved and changed so much to where I consider it one of my best ways to build relationships with teachers and connect with learners. (more…)

Coping With COVID-19: 5 Ways Leaders Can Alleviate the Anxiety of Students

A recent report shared that Americans are experiencing more restlessness, nightmares, and generally poorer levels of sleep during COVID-19. I’m certain this is also true for students. As educators, we have a responsibility to consider and plan to support the mental health of students during this time. If we ignore their mental health, we are neglecting one of the biggest issues in our country right now. As principals, we must be thoughtful, visionary, and focused on supporting mental health and wellness during this time. Without this, our students will begin to struggle and may start to withdraw, become depressed, or think suicidal thoughts. (more…)

Engaging Families in Remote Learning

Throughout my #remotelearning series, I have tried to provide practical ideas and strategies that can be used now. One aspect that needs more attention, at least in my opinion, is how we can assist parents throughout this ordeal. It goes without saying that many of them are dealing with some intense challenges such as equitable access to technology, WiFi availability, finding time to assist their kids with schoolwork, and a general sense of not knowing what to do in a remote learning world. Combine this with the added responsibility of working from home themselves, dealing with impending or current unemployment, the stress of not being able to see older relatives, and being a parent, and you can assume that tensions are running high. They need our support and understanding just as much as our learners do. Together we are better, especially in times of crisis. (more…)