By Shelley Littleton M.Ed., Kara McCulloch M.S., & Donni Perry M.Ed.
Courageous School Leadership
By Cathy Buyrn, M.Ed.
The 2020-2021 school year has posed leadership challenges like no other school year. School leaders have had to courageously build multiple solutions to unique challenges and pivot quickly when circumstances changed. To support you in meeting these unprecedented challenges, Link Lines has published a number of relevant articles in the past year. For example, in the July and September issues, we addressed the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) and self-care heading into an unprecedented year.
In the November and February editions of Link Lines, we pointed school leaders towards literacy and math practices for closing the skill gap that align with High Leverage Practices (HLPs). These academically focused practices will go a long way towards closing skill gaps that may have widened during the 2020-2021 school year.
In the spring edition of Link Lines, we wanted to hear from essential school workers who faced down this school year with amazing courage and creativity both in person and virtually. We asked them to share what they have learned this year and what ideas and strategies they are excited about keeping in their toolboxes for next year. View their inspiring Flip Grid videos in the educators’ lesson at the link above.
Moving into the summer and the 2021-2022 school year, school leaders will need to continue to keep SEL and self-care an important part of their weekly routines and set up structures for school staff members to do the same. The VDOE I’m Determined project offers a variety of tools that can be used by leaders, school staff, and students. The Good Day Plan and Goal Plan templates can help set the stage for SEL and self-care reflection and planning in order to ensure success at all levels.
While SEL and self-care should stay at the top of the priority list heading into the new school year, school leaders also need to prepare themselves to engage in the courageous leadership behaviors defined by the Virginia Department of Education’s Ed Equity 5Cs (i.e., culturally responsive, courageous leadership, curriculum reframing, compassionate student and family engagement, continuous reflection) (VDOE, 2020).
Courageous Leadership Behaviors
- Make inequities visible
- Disrupt discourse, practices, and policies that perpetuate inequities
- Encourage programs that support multi-lingual language and literacy development
- Normalize conversations about race, racism, and inequity
- Support people and building level administrators in efforts to address equity and racism
- Promote diversity and cultivate responsibility for equity
- Establish and communicate antiracism and equity policies to all stakeholders
- Establish and communicate clear equity goals
- Allocate resources to advance equity goals
(VDOE, 2020, p. 24)
In addition to the overall impacts of COVID-19 on society and schools, the past year has brought into focus issues of equity. Much of the discussion has been focused on race, culture, ethnicity, and economic disparities. Inequities across diverse groups of students can be compounded by disabilities and result in poor outcomes for too many students.
Courageous school leaders will have to help school staff let go of low expectations for these vulnerable students. They will also need to intentionally funnel resources into programs designed to compassionately engage marginalized groups of students (including students with disabilities) in order to close critical skill gaps and improve long-term outcomes for ALL students.
School leaders will be ahead of the game going into the 2021-2022 school year if they continue to make SEL and self-care a priority for all school community stakeholders and develop a plan for building the VDOE Ed Equity 5Cs into the fabric of their vision and mission to create inclusive and equitable school communities.
Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Office of Equity & Community Engagement. (2020). Navigating EdEquityVA: Virginia’s road map to equity. http://www.virginiaisforlearners.virginia.gov/edequityva/