The shift to distance learning was a quick and unexpected transition for many organizations. Kelly Batts, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for Clinton City Schools in North Carolina, shares how promoting teacher feedback and communication among all organizational levels was their district's biggest win while shifting to distance learning.
hen North Carolina was hit with the COVID-19 crisis, school districts all over the state scrambled to develop remote learning plans. These plans had to ensure that teaching and learning would continue even though school buildings were closed, and they had to be rolled out both quickly and efficiently.
In our district, the turnaround for quickly shifting instruction to a remote environment was an enormous task for teachers, administrators, teacher assistants, and central office staff. We had devices to deploy, hotspots to secure, surveys to deliver to figure out who did and did not have internet access, and remote instructional resources to curate—both in print and digital formats. Teachers who were less proficient in digital teaching also needed on-demand professional development and coaching.
Once these basic logistics were in place, and many teachers began working remotely, we began to notice how difficult it was to gauge the level of understanding and well-being of our teachers.
Our Curriculum and Instruction team first divided up the names of the teaching staff and reached out to them one-on-one. We asked questions about their students' internet access, their readiness for remote learning, and generally how they were doing.
After each meeting, we entered their responses into a Google Form so that our team could look for trends and do some central level problem-solving and support. Not only did these conversations help our team to see potential problems and successes, teachers also expressed gratitude that someone from the district was personally checking in on them!
Our key values for remote learning
Another early step our team took in this remote learning crisis situation was discussing the feedback we had received from teachers. We dug deep into what we were observing during online instruction and shared our own perceptions about the needs of our educational community. Afterwards, we came up with four words that have guided us throughout the process.
Balance: what guides our thinking about workload and expectations placed on students and staff, plus the navigation of work and family responsibilities.
Support: our focus when it comes to technical issues, as well as social and emotional support.
Connection: how we think about keeping strong relationships with families and our staff when we aren’t able to connect in a physical space.
Preparedness: relates to how we are preparing students for remote learning and the next grade level. This was especially important because we realized that there will be gaps in learning due to these unique circumstances. We are also discussing the preparedness of our teachers during remote learning, but also preparing them for a return to the school building and to a new school year where "normal" will look very different.
In the midst of the crisis, communication between all levels of our organization has been our biggest win. What started out as a strategic way to check in on our teachers has turned into the foundation by which we are guiding our entire curriculum and instruction plans for the district moving forwards.
About our Guest Blogger
Dr. Kelly Batts is finishing her 4th year as the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for Clinton City Schools in North Carolina. Over a span of 23 years in public education she has worked in district and school transformation at the NC Department of Public Instruction, been a district level coordinator/administrator, professional development trainer and system-wide mentor, a classroom teacher, an adjunct professor at UNC-Wilmington, and an educational consultant in North and South Carolina. She obtained her Doctorate, Masters, and BA degrees from UNC-Wilmington.
Kelly currently lives in Wilmington, NC with her husband, Chuck, their 3 kids, and a goofy standard poodle!