As we started this year, our leadership team acknowledged that doing something that nobody had ever done before could be pretty scary. We also acknowledged our strengths as we tried to start out in a proactive and positive note.
In order to recognize the hard work that people had already done and the work they had ahead, we bought everyone in the building a coffee mug and wrote their names on them. We provided a coffee station in the faculty room for them to use their mugs. Something we paid close attention to was including everyone in this acknowledgement. Custodians, paraeducators, kitchen staff and support staff all work very closely with students and it is important for them to feel a part of the community as well as feel a part of any changes.
In addition to the coffee station in the faculty room, we added an information center so that everyone in the building could be in the know about when faculty meetings would be, what issues would be discussed, and when various other committees would be meeting. We wanted all that was going on behind the scenes to become more visible for the entire school community. We introduced a blackboard in the bathroom with an optional question to respond to in order to give people a private place to process the drastic changes we are making. The first question was “when has change been so hard but felt so good”? These additions to the faculty room were met with some resistance and because they happened over the summer, there was no time to warn faculty or explain the purpose of the changes. In a time of such turbulence and so much other change, that notice would have probably made a big difference to people who are already feeling overwhelmed.
Finally, in order to give people more support as we blaze this trail, we created smaller “cohorts” of teachers and teacher leaders. We hope that it will be easier to address the needs of more people in smaller groups. Smaller groups will allow the leadership team to keep a pulse on how implementation is going and also how we can support people as they make shifts in their classrooms. Faculty have already expressed an appreciation of having a place to voice concerns, ask for help or just have a voice.
Despite my own inner anxiety, I immediately noticed a calm in the building this first week of school. I’m not the only one. Several other people have made the same observation while skeptically knocking on wood or asking if this was the “calm before the storm”? While I don’t think that these three strategies directly caused the “calm”, I certainly hope they had an impact on helping people feel more at ease and able to approach this drastic change in a positive way.