Necessity is, indeed, the mother of invention. In the spring of 2020, life threw us lemons and we produced fully operational lemonade stands. In the span of one to two weeks, we adopted new online learning platforms, developed instructional packets, and communicated our plans to stakeholders to ensure continuity of learning during a statewide stay-at-home order. Led by our superintendent’s imperative to reach every student, my district began broadcasting classroom lessons for grades Pre-K through 12 live on local television stations. The ingenuity of district leaders and principals throughout the state and the shared commitment to reach every student ensured that our children were provided a quality education, nutritious meals, and mental and physical wellness supports while working remotely from home. This was a wakeup call to all educational leaders and posed some pertinent questions. If we are not in our buildings, in what way does learning take place? How do we overcome technology hardware and infrastructure gaps? How do we keep students engaged? How do we adapt?
Fast forward to the summer of 2020. School leaders surveyed our stakeholders, conducted comprehensive needs assessments, communicated our plans, and developed our product: Hybrid Learning. Educators have always had a knack for taking seemingly insurmountable conditions and cultivating highly effective programs. That is why we were able to peer through the obstacle-laden haze and see opportunity. The mantra that I’ve shared with my school community since 4th quarter of school year 2020 is that we now have this unique opportunity to “reimagine” education. This is the moment where we question pedagogy and transform into a true 21st century model of teaching and learning. Everything that is stale, outdated, and irrelevant should be examined as we transition into a learning environment that empowers, differentiates, and caters to specific needs. We must “reimagine” learning.
Reimagine the Classroom
If this COVID-19 pandemic era has taught us anything, it’s that learning transcends the classroom. Educators now simultaneously teach on-campus and at-home learners. Prior to the pandemic, we were engrossed in brainstorming ways to enhance our buildings for this generation of students. Many of us felt that we were on the leading edge of innovation as we designed collaborative labs, STEM labs, greenhouse spaces, and other non-traditional learning environments. It’s time to reimagine our classrooms and incorporate multi-tiered, virtual learning spaces. Virtual spaces allow us to carve out remote classrooms for students who must remain home for long periods of time due to illness. It allows us to actively participate in educational excursions, field studies, and experiences that would otherwise be beyond our reach due to geographical or budgetary constraints. It fosters transparency and promotes parental engagement by opening our classrooms to the community. As we plan for the future, we should make the investments in the technology and training that support virtual classrooms that are concurrent with face-to-face instruction and accessible outside of normal school hours. The dividends will be immeasurable.
Reimagine Flexible Scheduling
Multiple pathways lead to the same destination. This season has prompted us to scrutinize our approaches to teaching in mixed venues, to diverse learners, at varying paces. During the pandemic, school systems throughout the country adopted 3 and 4 day school schedules. The impetus for the abbreviated school week was to allow the schools to sanitize and disinfect learning spaces, engage teachers and staff in professional learning, and complete other functional tasks. Could this be a viable model for instruction post-pandemic? Would it be feasible for more schools to employ flexible scheduling to accommodate the unique needs of students? Could some learners be immersed in instruction during conventional school hours while others complete their academic assignments in the evenings? It’s easy to envision students within the same building working on different schedules, but sometimes difficult to implement. If we could make this an option for more institutions of learning, imagine the increases in school participation and improvements in on-time graduation rates. It’s something to consider.
Reimagine Measures of Progress
Many educators feel that the current A-F grading system is woefully inadequate. It’s not as equitable as a 4 point system, and it often fails to establish what student’s already know, their mastery of new content, or their ability to apply their learning. While we are reimagining our educational structure, we should consider the ways in which we monitor progress of students and communicate progress to parents. We should explore options that better demonstrate student growth and create prescriptions for continued advancement. We should also examine the ways in which we discuss progress with parents. Remote learning compelled us to adopt video conferencing as a tool to communicate with parents. This creates an avenue for meaningful dialogue to take place without forcing parents to leave work. It could bring several stakeholder groups together to support students. The way that we measure and communicate progress must be meaningful.
The pandemic has forced us to be more open and transparent. Classroom instruction is visible to parents. Districts have made health and wellness data readily-accessible to the public. School nurses and counselors have taken a lead role in providing awareness about the physical, mental, and social well-being of our students. Teachers and coaches have proven that while technology has the ability to cater to the specific needs of learners, it will never replace the personalization of relationships between students and their adult advocates. And we administrators have shown that with vision and fortitude, we can do just about anything. Impediments will always line our paths. But each impediment is a hidden opportunity to learn, stretch our imaginations, and innovate. “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Let’s take this opportunity to reset and reimagine what learning means to us.
Alabama Student Council Conference Update
To say that these are unprecedented times is more than an understatement. Hindsight is always 20/20 and in years to come when we look back, we will see how we may have done things differently in the year 2020. However, one thing is for sure, committed educators have ALWAYS done what is best for students…and that will never be different or change. As a matter of fact, you have done so much with so little for so long that you are expected to do practically everything with almost nothing! And that is exactly what you have done……you are to be commended and applauded!
It is with much regret that we have decided that it is in the best interest of our student leaders not to have a state conference this year. A gathering of such magnitude would not yet be feasible or safe. Please allow your Student Council Association to stay tuned and to stay connected with our state association.
Adam Clemons Named AASSP Vice President-Elect
Congratulations to Dr. Adam Clemons who was elected on November 9 at the AASSP/AAMSP Fall Conference to serve as the Vice-President Elect of the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals (AASSP).
Dr. Clemons received his bachelor’s degree from Auburn University, a master’s degree from Jacksonville State University, and his education specialist and doctorate from Argosy University. Clemons has been an educator for 20 years of which the last 13 years have been as an administrator. Dr. Clemons is currently the Principal of Piedmont High School in Piedmont, Alabama. He has received numerous awards including the 2020 Alabama Principal of the Year and was chosen by NASSP as one of the nation’s top three finalists.
He is the proud father of five children and is married to Patty, a speech-language pathologist.
AASSP Principals of the Year
Caroline Obert - Middle School Principal of the Year
Mrs. Caroline Obert, principal of Chelsea Middle School in the Shelby County School System, has been named 2021 Alabama Middle School Principal of the Year by the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals (AASSP). Read More.
Alabama's High School Principal of the Year
The Alabama High School Principal of the Year will be named at the end of February. Stay tuned...
AASSP District High School Principals of the Year
District 1 - Charles "Chip" Menton
Theodore High School, Mobile County Schools
District 2 - Andrea Maness (Finalist)
Carroll High School, Ozark City Schools
District 3 - Ron Pinson (Finalist)
Chilton County High School, Chilton County Schools
District 4 - Wes Rogers
Elmore County High School, Elmore County Schools
District 5 - Terrell Brown
Woodlawn High School, Birmingham City Schools
District 6 - Rusty Thrasher
Cedar Bluff High School, Cherokee County Schools
District 7N - Jerry Hill
Brooks High School, Lauderdale County Schools
District 7S - Jeff Cole
Winston County High School, Winston County
District 8 - Sylvia Lambert (Finalist)
Bob Jones High School, Madison City Schools
AASSP District Middle School Principals of the Year
District 1 - Tiffany Irby Kalakheti
Daphne Middle School, Baldwin County Schools
District 2 - Brandon Kiser (Finalist)
Admiral Moorer Middle School, Eufaula City Schools
District 3 - Christy Mims
Jemison Middle School, Chilton County Schools
District 4 - Sarah Armstrong
JF Drake Middle School, Auburn City Schools
District 5 - Caroline Obert (Finalist, Winner)
Chelsea Middle School, Shelby County Schools
District 6 - Bobby Tittle
Ohatchee High School, Calhoun County Schools
District 7N - Stephanie Wieseman (Finalist)
Sheffield Junior High School, Sheffield City Schools
District 7S - None Selected
District 8 - Graham Aderholt
Athens Middle School, Athens City Schools
Harland "Drew" Glass Named AASSP Assistant Principal of the Year
Harland Drew Glass, assistant principal at Wetumpka High School in the Elmore County School System has been named the Alabama Assistant Principal of the Year by the Alabama Association of Secondary School Principals (AASSP). As the Alabama state winner, Glass is eligible to be selected as the 2021 National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) National Assistant Principal of the Year. Read More.
Middle School Perspective: Fostering a Mindset of Love, Acceptance and Understanding
Since March, we have all been consumed with Covid-19-sorting out plans, changing them and then sorting again. If your school is like Buckhorn Middle, then I am certain the pandemic has been so overwhelming that you have not had time to process the other issue that plagues our country still in 2020-continued racism and division.
We all want to believe our truth is the only truth, then we are confronted with horrendous acts of brutality that rock us to the core of our beliefs. As a middle school principal, I recognize that racism still exists and that we must nurture our youth. Our kids continue to see inhumane acts over and over with multiple deaths of black individuals after interactions with police and then the deaths of police officers. The explanation and comfort seem to be gone. The violence in our country continues to grow and become more discriminatory in terms of race, culture, religion, and political groups.
While we cannot change the actions of those who have walked before us, we can help foster a mindset of love, acceptance, and understanding. This year and in the years to come, Buckhorn Middle School is going to accept the challenge of creating opportunities for our stakeholders to engage in respectful conversation and study.
This year, we started our year with a school-wide read, The New Kid by Jerry Craft. The author does a great job handling several sensitive issues beyond the obvious one of racial identity, cultural, and class issues. The book study led our students and teachers down a road of discussion that we can no longer ignore. We are at ground zero, and it is part of our responsibility to create a culturally diverse, all inclusive, K-12 classroom. We must recognize divisive rhetoric and identify microaggressions that fan the flames of hatred to create a school environment that is conducive to inclusivity, sensitivity, empathy, and love.
Monday, June 14th, 7am to Wednesday, June 16th, 10am
1 Richard Arrington Junior Boulevard North
W. H. Kimbrough Scholarship
Application deadline is May 15, 2020