3 ways to share core values to break through the ‘good enough’ mindset

How district teams can teach and learn with purpose every day
By: | July 30, 2021
Students read to Mojo the therapy dog during accelerated academies offered this summer by the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School DistrictStudents read to Mojo the therapy dog during accelerated academies offered this summer by the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District
Superintendent Paul Haughey

Superintendent Paul Haughey

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated to many of us within public education today that if we pool our limited resources and focus on teaching and learning in a variety of models (remote, hybrid and in-person), we can achieve anything we set our minds to.

It also took everything we had to break through the old paradigms and beliefs of what schooling, teaching and learning needs to look like in the 21st century.

Here are a few takeaways from the pandemic for the year ahead.

1. Leadership collaboration are keys

Consistent leadership from our governance team, school committee and the operational leadership team made a difference. Our practices operationally aligned to our policies and represented us as a school district and our shared core values well.

This fact made difficult conversations easier to have when times became uncertain and beyond our control—proving that our leadership could remain consistent in our messaging while remaining positive and collaborative in our work together.

This fact also helped us to then prepare well by:

  • Planning and providing high quality professional development learning opportunities for staff and students, specifically in remote teaching and learning as well as workshops in ELA, math and science programs. Special education staff and students even received workshops in how best to teach and learn online
  • Providing each staff and students with one-to-one access to technology and Wi-Fi capabilities. The end result: every staff member and student had a 1:1 piece of technology as well as access to teaching and learning anytime – synchronously or asynchronously.

2. Be prepared and then prepare more

With public health guidance changing weekly, we worked together with all of our stakeholders to create a “COVID-19 Reopening plan.” It reflected us as a regional school district and the communities we served well—allowing us to reopen safely in early September of 2020 to hybrid learning for many of our students.

A first grade class from Wire Village School celebrates the release of their painted lady butterflies during an outdoor lessons his spring.Key elements to our reopening plan:

  • Emphasized safety, health and wellness by front-loading our ability to organize and problem solve effectively under CDC, state and local public health guidelines;
  • Pressed us to utilize public health data to drive decision making around when to pivot to the most effective model of learning (remote to hybrid, or hybrid to remote; later to in-person full time);
  • Pushed us as district and building leaders to admit when we did not have answers and to work together to identify solutions to our shortfalls;
  • And caused us to lean on one another in ways never before imagined thus promoting and accentuating our positive school climate and culture throughout each of our school, family and community programs and services.

What resulted was a stronger culture within each of our schools and recognition that the needs of the “whole child” were paramount. No longer were we just teaching material, we were teaching staff and students to focus upon relations, then rigor and relevance aimed at cognitive, affective, psychomotor and social domains.

3. Shared core values drove achievement

Shared core values, established long before the pandemic struck, provided us with the opportunity to have stronger relationships between the school committee and leadership team members, and between building leadership (principals and assistant principals) and faculty and staff.

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner, Jeffrey C. Riley visited several Spencer-East Brookfield  classrooms to met students and thank teachers for their work during the pandemic. As a result, the relationships demonstrated our shared core values of being respectful, responsible and focused upon always being “ready to learn.”

In the end, our governance, leadership team, teachers and staff modeled honesty, integrity and composure, especially when anyone one of us did not always have all of the answers. We were not afraid to say, “I do not know,” but then go out and research the right action steps to take collaboratively in navigating the pandemic.

Working together, we were resourceful and utilized our strong curricular and extra-curricular programs and services offered to students to support positive lines of communication. This fact served as yet another anchor to drive our teaching and learning throughout the pandemic, regardless of the model (remote, hybrid, or in-person).

It also gave us the ability to look at one another and realize that if we could do this, we could do anything—and the old days of “good enough” were long gone. We figured out that—together—we were teaching and learning with purpose every day; and that we were prepared for anything.

Paul S. Haughey is the superintendent of the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District in Massachusetts. He has over 31 years of experience in education. You can connect with Dr. Haughey on Twitter, @pshaughey, and with Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District, @ChooseSEBRSD.