Central & Eastern European Schools Association Executive Director Kathy Stetson has organized weekly Zoom sessions for directors of member schools. These have been invaluable and have helped me grow as an education leader. This week a panel of directors started the conversation with some provocative ideas and the second part was a dialogue and Q & A. Most of the discussion dealt with the challenges of re-opening our campuses next fall.Below are some of my takeaways:
- I like this idea of smaller groups of students being led by a mentor. Some governments are dictating to schools that are reopening to keep small groups of students (usually 10 or less) isolated from others in the school to assist with contact tracing and reducing the spread of the virus. Looking at it in another way, it kind of brings in the elementary school model of a homeroom teacher providing a loving, caring environment for students. This model should be moved up to secondary schools.
- We are all struggling with balancing parents expectations and the need to provide childcare for families and keeping our students and faculty/staff healthy. What will parents accepts? We need to keep their viewpoint in our decision-making and dialogue with parents often.
- The idea of autonomy/agency should be promoted during this crisis. Encouraging individual and groups of teachers and students to find solutions to keep teaching and learning while staying healthy.
- Pay attention to the student voice. Kathleen Naglee from IS Helsinki informed us the seeing the joy from the students to be back on campus and with each other despite the limitations of physical distancing, should give us hope that we will get through this.
- Peter Welch from AIS Bucharest reminded us to consider the values of 1) healthy school 2) innovation 3) sustain community
- CEESA is calling together a group to look at what early childhood education will look like next autumn. This is an especially challenging group because it is impossible to physically distance young children.
- One strategy is to focus on barriers around the school. The science of contact tracing says that regardless of mask or distancing, all people in an enclosed space for extended periods of time are proximate contacts. Wearing a mask has minimum benefits.
- We will need to teach staff to protect themselves regarding handshaking (big in Uzbekistan), hugs, etc.
- Finally, the idea of “informed consent” will be important. Schools need to be clear and comprehensive to what school will look like so parents, teachers and students know what they are getting into.
I would like to thank the CEESA executive board for leading the session and for all the collaborative Zoom sessions this spring!