Today we began week three of our online school, and the nature of my email inbox is shifting.
Our teachers are now pursuing students who haven’t yet arrived. We ask them to reach out to parents first, then guidance counsellors, and finally to connect with the VP responsible for then student (as determined by their surname). To accomplish the first, the teacher must have access to our student information system, and know how to query it to locate each student’s record. So I spent time today sharing the documentation on our system, and then troubleshooting access to the documentation and/or steps within our information system. Then I shared again how teachers could find the name of the guidance counsellor, and the list of alpha VPs. With some teachers only now gaining access to our information systems, it’s a jagged front, and each query requires an individualized response.
We now have office staff who can assist with corrections to student attendance, and with verification of students who could not be verified by their teachers. I am not sharing the names of our staff broadly, as I do not know the impact on them of what is essentially a school that is an order of magnitude larger than any other school in our board. I will play “gatekeeper” until we figure out how they will be able to handle the deluge.
The past week has been spent letting teachers know how to apply for approval of absences such as holy days or family responsibility. Although they are still attached to their home schools, we must do the approvals. And we need to ensure that they enter the absence into another system, and that they do NOT request a supply teacher for the first few days of absence.
Although we have divided our students into groups by surname, and our teachers into groups by subject area, there are still hundreds of questions each day for each of our teams. And the master list of “who does what” has traveled down in everyone’s inbox, and needs to be sent again to most who need it.
Having shared the student information system documentation, I then received a beautiful email from a teacher, offering to provide a workshop for our new teachers. I know that if I offered a workshop many teachers would see it as a “demand”. And I don’t want to pressure any of them, as they plan assessments in order to have data for next week’s report cards. So this teacher has offered to communicate directly with her colleagues, and I am hopeful that some will accept her offer, and learn the skills they need to work efficiently and effectively with our system.
While I pride myself on my facility with computer technology, I really don’t have much experience with the tools our teachers need to use. And as an administrator, I can’t even try some of them out! I really am going to have to practice with both Google Meet and MS Teams, as this seems to be the area of least experience for our teachers as well. Wish me luck!
I accepted this role as a half-time Principal, but haven’t yet had a half day. I teach a couple of classes in the Faculty of Education at Ontario Tech University, and this morning I managed to listen to our guest speaker (an elder, visiting and explaining the Seven Grandfather Teachings: Love, Respect, Bravery, Truth, Honesty, Humility, and Wisdom) while screening board emails.
When my class met, following this amazing presentation, I had opened the wrong virtual classroom, and only nine made it there. We figured out my error, emailed the rest, and they finally all arrived. Then they informed me via chat that I had not enabled their microphones, and a little later that their cameras were also not enabled. Thank goodness I have been working with them for a full year, and they are giving me the benefit of the doubt as things do not go smoothly. I comfort myself that I am modelling flexibility and a positive response to failure!
They are very anxious about completing the necessary practicum hours to graduate in December. I have offered to connect them with teachers in our school who might appreciate their support in planning, creation of course materials, and in developing new skills within their asynchronous and synchronous tools. They can log hours as volunteers, without having to complete the paperwork necessary for a full placement.
I am priding myself on getting my inbox to zero by the end of the school day. I scan for emergency emails to ensure I don’t leave anyone hanging for too long, and it’s a positive sign that I managed to avoid working throughout most of the weekend. I know that our teachers will likely find time to reach out to me in the evenings, not during the school day, so I return to email a couple of times each evening, to respond to issues that will impact teachers and students the next day.
I wonder if our families realize how close to 24/7 the job of a teacher has become?