Posts by Hendy Avenue

Welcome Rachel Modica-Russell!

We are absolutely thrilled to announce that the incredibly talented Rachel Modica-Russell has joined the Hendy Avenue Consulting team!

Rachel brings a wealth of experience and expertise to our organization, and we couldn’t be happier to have her on board.

We first met Rachel several years ago when she joined Hendy’s Chief Talent Officer Cohort as the talent leader at Explore Schools. Rachel immediately impressed us with her thoughtful leadership, easy relationship building, ability to truly listen and understand the perspectives of all stakeholders, focus on not just the “what” of change leadership but also the “how”, and her unwavering commitment to doing what’s best for kids.

We are so happy that Rachel has decided to bring her many talents to the Hendy team and our wonderful clients. She is already making our team smarter, stronger, and more fun – and having a positive impact on the school systems we serve.

Please help us to welcome Rachel!

Biography: Rachel Modica-Russell chose to join Hendy not only because she fervently believes in the team’s potential to impact the education sector through their research-based and thoughtful work in talent strategy, strategic planning, leadership development, and programmatic support; she herself has experienced the quality of partnership and depth of expertise present on the Hendy team as a past Chief Talent Officer (CTO) cohort member.

Prior to joining Hendy, Rachel spent five years as the Managing Director of Talent for Explore Schools, a network of eight public charter schools across Brooklyn serving students in K-8th grade. In her role, Rachel shepherded work across all talent functions at Explore Schools, and worked in lockstep with school and network-based leadership on recruitment, Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging work, staff retention, and people development efforts for their 300+ community members. As Managing Director of Talent at Explore Schools, Rachel spearheaded exciting initiatives and programming such as a staff mentorship program, revising the organization’s approach to compensation, and building a career advancement policy and pathway protocol anchored in more equitable and transparent talent practices.

Rachel could not be any more excited to work alongside other members of the Hendy team to set adults up for success by way of developing smart, strategic people-focused infrastructure and initiatives to drive talent management and people development in schools.

Before working for Explore Schools as Managing Director of Talent, Rachel was a staff member at Uncommon Schools for over 5 years, first as a teacher, and closed out her time with them as Senior Associate Director of Recruitment where she led recruitment for both their Brooklyn and Troy-based regions. Returning to Explore Schools in 2018 was a full-circle moment for Rachel, as Explore is the very organization (Explore Schools) she began her career in education as a Teach for America Corps member and K-2 teacher.

Rachel received her master’s degree in early childhood education from Teacher U – Hunter College and holds undergraduate degrees in Spanish and Family and Human Services from the University of Oregon. After 14 years in Brooklyn, NY, Rachel and her wife and two children made the move back to Oregon to be closer to family. So far, so good :).

CAO Cohort Members

Announcing our 2022-2023 Chief Academic Officer Cohort

The Hendy team is proud to announce the talented academic leaders chosen to be a part of the 2022-2023 Chief Academic Officer Cohort:

  • Dr. Saskia Brown – Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy
  • Dr. Megan Frankiewicz – Vista College Prep
  • Ben Johnson – Ingenuity Prep
  • Jeremy Jones – Eagle College Prep
  • Crystal Lane – DREAM
  • Nate Lowry – Academies of Math and Science

The CAO Cohort is led by Erica Murphy and Jonathan McIntosh. Erica is a member of the Hendy team and former academic leader for Ascend and Jonathan is the current CAO of Prospect Schools and a member of our 2021-2022 CAO Cohort.

The Cohort is a place for leaders to learn, reflect, grow, and share. And to do so alongside other leaders who understand the unique challenges faced by academic leaders today. Over the course of 9 facilitated sessions, CAOs exchange resources, solve problems, and build relationships.

Our goals are for CAOs to:

  • Establish a vision of excellence for the CAO role and its components (e.g., vision setting, team building, instructional management, culture building, data analysis, reflection and action-planning). 
  • Establish relationships with CAOs nationally – participants become “thought partners” and confidantes for each other, during and post cohort. 
  • Share resources, perspectives, ideas, thoughts, approaches on all things related to the role.
  • Receive structured PD on innovative research and ideas.

We look forward to learning alongside these wonderful leader and can’t wait to kick off our first cohort session on September 22nd!

Stay Conversation

Stay Conversations in the 2021-2022 SY

Our team has talked before about the importance of Stay Conversations as a crucial tool for staff retention. In the past, Stay Conversations have been about getting teachers and school leaders to return for the following school year. This year is different. This year is not only about retention for next school year, but also retaining people through the current school year. The 2021-2022 school year has been unbelievably hard. Across the country, schools are understaffed. Those who remain are being asked to go above and beyond: covering for vacant positions and for teachers who are absent or quarantined, supporting students who have endured emotional trauma and had significant disruption in their learning, and working in challenging physical conditions while worrying about their own safety. We’ve already seen the “Great Resignation” and unfortunately, it’s likely to get worse before it gets better. 

Leaders will not be able to recruit their way to solving this crisis. Instead, leaders will need to focus on retaining the people they do have. One retention strategy is the Stay Conversation. These conversations typically occur before the December holidays as a way to affirm a leader’s desire for their staff to continue at the school the following year and preempt a holiday vacation job search. These conversations are recommended for staff in all roles including teachers, operations, and leadership.

Stay Conversations are a tried and true retention strategy that we encourage school leaders to continue during this unique year, but with a few important revisions to the approach and an updated conversation guide

  1. More Frequent Stay Conversations: Rather than just meeting once a year for a Stay Conversation, we recommend meeting 2-3 times this year (including just before the winter break) to ensure that staff are regularly hearing important messages and have a one-on-one opportunity to voice any concerns. This may sound like a lot of time, but a 10 minute conversation is much less time consuming than the time spent covering a vacancy.
  2. Detailed Tracking: People’s personal situations and needs have changed frequently and rapidly throughout the pandemic. With each conversation, make sure to add to your Talent Tracker additional details about each individual such as the teacher’s current school roles (official and unofficial), how they are being recognized for their work, their relevant personal circumstances, and their desired situation (long and short-term).
  3. Planning Possible Offers: Before the very first conversation, prepare 1) what policies you can put in place to support and recognize all staff and 2) what you may be able to offer to staff who have a special need. It’s important to plan these in advance so that there is equity in the arrangements that are made, not just being provided to the best negotiators. Note that these offerings can be monetary, recognition, or other things that are valued by the individual. 
    • Example All-Staff Policies: 
      • All staff may be asked to work up to one hour per week covering other classes. Any additional coverage over that hour will be compensated work at an hourly rate (accessing vacancy savings and ESSR funds). 
      • Lunch duty coverage includes a gift card/voucher to purchase meals.
      • Public recognition each week of staff who are taking on additional responsibilities. 
    • Example Individualized Plans (with rationale for who gets it): 
      • Late start-time so a parent can drop their child off at school.
  4. Communicate Impact: Clearly communicate the significant impact the person is having in the school. Ask staff directly to stay through the entire school year.
  5. Broader Strategy: Stay Conversations are powerful, but they are not enough on their own. Consider all the ways to ensure people feel valued, feel successful, are growing, and have flexibility to meet the demands of their lives.
  6. Set Yourself Up for Success: Consider the day, time, and environment that will set you, as the leader, up for success. You cannot pour from an empty cup so make sure you are in a good place yourself. One idea is to lead these conversations in the morning, before other distractions of the day. 

We’re providing this updated 2021-2022 Stay Conversation Guide (adapted from a tool developed at IDEA Public Schools) to support you in leading important conversations in this critical year. We hope it helps you to meaningfully connect with your team members and results in strong retention. Please share your feedback so we can continue to improve the tool for others. Y

Hendy Avenue: Fall 2021 Update

Dear friends and colleagues,

I hope this message finds you, your family, and your students doing well. Thank you for the incredible work you’re doing on behalf of kids.

A couple weeks ago I sent my oldest child off to first grade in the NYC public schools, twenty years after I began my career in education as a first grade teacher. The world looks really different for first graders today compared to the first graders of twenty years ago, but their fundamental needs have not changed – they need caring adults who believe in them and will support, challenge, and inspire them to be their very best. To all the folks who are doing that work every day, and to all the folks behind the scenes making it possible, thank you. Your unwavering commitment to students is more important than ever.

In this year’s annual update, I want to share with you the work the Hendy Avenue Consulting team has been doing to support teachers, school leaders, and system leaders to be their best for students; introduce you to our wonderful new team member, Keri Hubbard; and share the new ways in which our team is now able to support you to meet your goals. Please check out all our exciting updates below, take a peak at our recently updated website, and reach out about opportunities for partnership. We’d love to hear from you!

If you’re reading this update on our blog and want to get future updates directly to your inbox, please click here to subscribe.

All the best,

Hendy Avenue Annual Updates
Keri Hubbard Joined The Team!! We are so fortunate that Keri Hubbard joined our team in July 2021! Keri is an exceptional teacher and math coach, and leads some of the very best PD we’ve ever seen! Keri’s experience as a teacher and school leader at both Achievement First and KIPP Texas Public Schools combined with her leadership at Teaching Trust and Cadence Learning make her an ideal partner. She’s already helped our team get better and smarter, and is doing excellent work coaching teachers and leaders.

Celebrating Successes
The 2020-2021 school year brought unprecedented challenges to our schools. I’m proud to say that the Hendy team stood fast in our commitment to supporting our partners through it all, while ensuring every member of our team was able to be there for their families. A few big highlights to share from the year:

Partner Retention: Once again, 100% of our partners will continue to work with us and several have signed on for their third (or more) consecutive year partnering with us, including the Delaware Department of Education, KIPP Texas Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, and Hebrew Public Schools.

Partner Satisfaction: On our annual survey, 100% of our partners said their experience working with Hendy was extremely or very positive and 100% of our clients said they are extremely or very likely to refer Hendy Avenue Consulting to others.

Growing Team: We’ve grown to a mighty team of five and added exceptional talent that has allowed us to expand our offerings.

Anti-Racism: We’re focusing on being a more anti-racist organization, taking steps to improve what we measure, who we work with, what we do, and how we grow as individuals and a team; we recently 
shared our reflections in the hopes of inspiring other organizations to take action.

Equity in Rubrics: We recognized our influence in teacher observation rubrics and examined, in partnership with DEI experts, how various rubrics help or hurt equity. We’re now planning a webinar to share what we’ve learned and how school systems can improve their own rubrics to center equity and inclusion. Mark your calendars for this webinar on December 8th at 3pm EST and reach out if you’d like more info.

Addressing Learning Gaps Cohorts: We met our client needs and created two Spring 2021 
Addressing Learning Gaps Cohorts where academic teams from seven high performing charter networks came together to identify their strategy to address academic learning gaps as a result of COVID. We supported them in reviewing their data, aligning their curriculum and pacing to the priority standards, and reviewing their talent structures to support their plans. Each team left with a theory of action and a concrete plan to address learning gaps as well as a training, communications and evaluation plan.

People First: Our team members maintained the flexibility and space we each needed to care for our families during this challenging time; we’ve double downed on being a people first organization and it continues to result in happier people and better outcomes

Talent, Academics, and Leadership Development…Oh My!
You already know Hendy as your go-to partner for talent strategy including development, evaluation, compensation, retention, and career pathways. With the addition of our newest team members, we’re now also leaders in academic strategy and leadership development. We’d love to discuss how we can support your work around: Using student data to set short and long-term academic strategy; coaching district leadership, school leaders, and/or teachers; leading professional development to set an instructional vision and support curricular implementation

Introducing Our Chief Academic Officer Cohort
We deeply believe in the power of people coming together to solve complex problems. Building off the successes of NYC Chief Talent Officer Cohort and two Addressing Learning Gaps Cohorts, we are now kicking off our first national Chief Academic Officer Cohort with an incredible group of CAOs from Ascend Learning, Breakthrough Public Schools, Coney Island Prep, DC Prep, Hebrew Public Schools, KIPP Colorado, and Prospect Schools. We are honored to learn alongside these leaders and look forward to sharing more about this group and our learnings throughout the year.

2021-2022 Client Projects

How We’re Striving to be an Anti-Racist Organization: Reflections from the 2020-2021 School Year

In June 2020, Hendy Avenue Consulting, like many other organizations, responded to the murder of George Floyd with a statement supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and condeming acts of racism. We felt it was important to make a statement, but knew that alone was not enough, so we also made a series of commitments:

“We commit to continuing our own growth and learning as individuals and as a team. We commit to elevating the voices of our colleagues of color. We commit to loudly speaking out against racism. We commit to deepening our understanding of how the human capital systems we help to design and implement can either support or hurt both staff and students of color. We commit to creating spaces for education leaders where they can bring their full selves and safely speak their truth. 

As educators, we have a responsibility not just for reading, writing, and arithmetic. We have a responsibility to help shape a better tomorrow. Breaking down racism and white supremacy culture is not parallel to the work of education, it is the work.”

A year later, we reflect on the progress we’ve made and how far we still have to go to be an anti-racist organization, and to use our influence to create anti-racist spaces and tools and to develop leaders who promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. We share our reflections both to hold ourselves accountable as well as to share how even a small organization such as ours can make strides toward equity. Over the past year, our team has made improvements in: what we measure, who we work with, what we do, and how we grow. 

  1. What we measure:
  2. Who we work with:
  • What we do:
    • Observation Rubric Workshops: We recognized that one of our most direct influences on diversity, equity, and inclusion is in teacher observation and feedback rubrics and invested in our own learning in this area. Looking ahead, we are committed to providing support to others around revising their rubric language. More information on that opportunity coming soon!
    • Observation Rubric Development: The team, in partnership with our clients, has been responsible for writing observation and feedback rubrics for the Delaware Department of Education and for KIPP Texas Public Schools. Both of these rubrics take a strong equity and inclusion stance and will advance equity in their classrooms.
    • Academics: Our team has an increasing focus on academics and is bringing an anti-racist lens to our academic work, particularly in mathematics where student expectations, opportunities, and instructional methods too often hold back kids of color.
    • Strategic Planning: We are partnering with one charter network to create DEI strategic plans for each of their schools following unfavorable survey feedback from teachers.
    • Talent: We continued to have an equity focus in our examination of and revision to teacher compensation systems. We also focused on equity throughout our development of a Talent Toolkit for Chicago Public School administrators. For example, one PD session within the CPS Talent Toolkit focused on how to effectively lead their evaluation system and included IRRPP research to train principals on how to build trust across lines of difference.
    • Cohort Content: Our cohort facilitators prioritized a focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion as an on-going theme in our Chief Talent Officer Cohort and Addressing Learning Gaps Cohorts.
  • How we grow:
    • Individual Professional Learning Goals: Each member of our team now includes explicit goals related to DEI knowledge-building and influence in our individual professional learning goals. 
    • Accountability and Reflection: To ensure that our individual growth doesn’t get pushed aside, our team discusses progress toward our individual DEI goals every 6-8 weeks.
    • Consultancy: We regularly problem-solve together as a team when we face equity challenges in our work and, when needed, we reach out to experts in the field to get specialized guidance on how to support or challenge our clients. 

Looking Ahead

As the founder of Hendy, I’m proud of how much we’ve done over the past year to become a more anti-racist organization. I have no illusions that our equity work is done or ever will be, however, I do believe we’ve set a foundation for our future work that will serve our team and our partners well. I also believe we’ve built momentum that will propel us forward, each year getting smarter and having a greater influence. A few specific goals for the 2021-2022 school year include: 

  1. Reviewing and refining our language in our performance rubric and partner survey.
  2. Continuing to grow our partnerships with BIPOC educators – not just with other consultants, but also with the clients with whom we choose to work.
  3. Leading strong observation and feedback reviews such that observation rubrics are driving teachers and administrators toward behaviors that enhance equity and inclusion in classrooms and schools.
  4. Centering our CAO Cohort around equity to ensure that all students are getting the educational opportunities they need to be successful.
  5. Revising our consulting contract language and our launch meetings to make clear our anti-racist stance and what that means for our partnerships.
  6. Reflecting on the ways in which our internal practices are based in a white supremacy culture and may not be serving our team or clients well and making necessary changes.
  7. Continuing our individual equity goals, regular team reflections, and team problem-solving so that we can provide better support to our partners and can support/push their thinking and decisions. 

If you have any feedback on our work so far, or our goals for the upcoming year, please let me know. We’d love to learn from and with you!

Announcing our 2021-2022 Chief Academic Officer Cohort

We believe leaders need other leaders. Learning alongside trusted colleagues in similar roles, leaders sharpen their vision, build their skills, exchange resources, problem solve, build relationships, and feel more fulfilled in their work. Building on the successes of our other cohorts and with the generous support of the Charter School Growth Fund, Hendy is proud to introduce our inaugural Chief Academic Officer Cohort.

The 2021-2022 Chief Academic Officer Cohort members are:

  • Andrew McRae – Breakthrough Schools
  • Anjya Thomas – Ascend Learning
  • Eric Green – Coney Island Prep
  • Emily Fernandez – Hebrew Public Schools
  • Jonathan McIntosh – Prospect Schools
  • Katie Severn – DC Prep
  • Leah Peters – KIPP Colorado

These incredible leaders have a shared commitment to working together to solve common challenges and creating more equitable opportunities for all children. Cohort members will come together for virtual monthly cohort sessions led by Hendy’s expert facilitators, who themselves have been C-level executives in high performing charter school networks. This program is unique in that it is responsive to member needs, builds lasting relationships, provides both immediately helpful resources as well as long-term, philosophical considerations, builds leader skill as team leaders and senior organization leaders, integrates the roles of talent in academics, and includes a commitment to distributing our learning to benefit a broader audience outside of the cohort (stay tuned!). Our first session is in September and we can’t wait to get started!

Addressing Learning Gaps Cohorts

The Challenge: The global pandemic has significantly impacted teaching and learning, leading to significant learning loss and increased inequities. There is a shared assumption that students, particularly those students who were already underserved, have fallen behind. The challenge is that (1) we don’t yet know how far behind they are, (2) we don’t fully understand the social and emotional needs of children who have experienced this unprecedented event, (3) some students may have benefitted from remote learning in ways that we don’t yet understand, and (4) we don’t yet know how to best meet their needs as we look to the upcoming school year. 

Theory of Action: In unprecedented times, we find the most value comes from connecting with others wrestling with similar challenges and working together to understand the problem, create a strategy, and to plan for action. We believe that by bringing together leaders from similar school networks and districts through a series of facilitated problem-solving, strategy, and planning sessions, we can significantly improve outcomes for students. 

Introducing the Addressing Learning Gaps Working Groups: In the Spring and Summer of 2021, Hendy Avenue Consulting is convening two small cohorts of charter school networks from across the country to come together over a series of five sessions to problem solve and action plan around the challenges of assessing and addressing learning gaps for the 2021-2022 school year. Through the cohort experience, each network is creating its own unique and actionable academic strategic plan.

Working Group Participants: We are so honored to have 9 incredible charter school networks, each with exceptional academics leaders, choosing to join our program. We started with a first cohort in March 2021 and given the demand, added a second cohort in April. Our wonderful cohort members coming from the following networks:

Impact: Our first cohort has just completed their 3rd session and our second cohort has just completed their 2nd session. In these sessions, Chief Academic Officers and their teams of 2-4 others, review research, learn from best practices, share ideas and receive feedback from leaders in other networks, and develop comprehensive plans for prioritized content, academic strategy, assessment, staffing, training, change management, communications, and more. The Hendy team is proud of our role in supporting the academic leaders who are ensuring that all children are successful in the years to come.

Collaborating to Examine Teacher Observation Rubrics for Equity

As an organization that strives to be anti-racist and to advance diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in our work, our Hendy team has taken a close look at our priorities and projects to determine how we can take steps to actively help create anti-racist schools. We believe that every organization should consider where they have influence and take strides to use their influence to proactively address racism, and teacher evaluation rubrics is ours.

As experts in teacher evaluation, and as an organization that frequently supports networks, districts and states to design and implement teacher evaluation rubrics, we identified rubrics as a place that we can advance equity with our clients. We know a lot about rubrics, both about how to write good rubrics, and how to implement rubrics to support teacher development and growth. And, we’ve been intentional about including language about inclusion and diversity in rubrics that we’ve helped to draft and implement. But we hadn’t yet taken an intentional look at rubrics to identify what in the language may be truly advancing equity in teaching and learning, and what might be hindering equity. We also knew that, as a team of four people who all identify as white, we have some critical blindspots in the work of examining tools with an anti-racist lens. 

So, before we set out to create a tool, host a workshop, or even publish this blog post, we decided to do the work of examining rubrics ourselves. We contracted with two trusted leaders in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in education, Carrie Ellis from Celestial Consulting and Ashley Griffin from Bowie State University and BEE Consulting, who themselves are women of color, and asked them to engage in this work with us. We also engaged Talia Shaull from Achievement First and Lisa Friscia from Democracy Prep, both members of Hendy’s Chief Talent Officer cohort, so we could have the perspective of practitioners in the field leading this work in their organizations. As a team we set out to examine the language of four teacher observation rubrics, two that are commonly used in districts and networks across the country, and two that are specific to networks we work closely with. Our intent was to identify specific examples of language, and overall trends in rubrics, that either supported or hindered efforts to advance equity and anti-racism.  We also wanted to test a potentially transferable process for examining rubrics with an anti-racism lens. 

We started the work by first affirming the role of rubrics in advancing equity and anti-racism in schools, and were honest about what rubrics can and can’t do. Then we examined the content of four rubrics to identify:

  1. Language or expectations in the rubric that values white dominant norms, values, and culture over those of other racial groups; 
  2. Language in the rubric that is supportive of equity (specific practices, mindset cues for teachers, etc.); and 
  3. Missed opportunities in the rubric to advance equity of instruction for students.

We organized and summarized the themes we saw in each rubric, and discussed those themes together to both align and clarify. In our discussion we surfaced several categories of content that might drive examination of other rubrics for bias and equity. 

In addition to categories of content, we also discussed structural features of rubrics, and how those features may or may not advance equity. Specifically, we discussed student-focused vs. teacher-focused rubrics, and the inclusion of DEI as a separate indicator vs. baked in throughout all indicators. 

Bringing together experts in different content areas to wrestle with a challenging question was engaging and frankly a lot of fun. We were able to push each other’s ideas, discuss what really matters, debate language and its impact, and learn and grow in the process. At the end of the day, our brains were tired, but we were energized by the ideas we created together and the possibility of sharing with others. We see a significant opportunity to improve rubrics and recognize that while doing so is insufficient for creating anti-racist schools, they do play a critical role in driving teacher practice and leaders’ coaching, and therefore must be improved. 

Our work helped us to develop guidance that might support others who wish to examine their own teacher observation rubric, and inspired us to engage others in this work. We look forward to sharing that guidance in a webinar later this spring. If you or your team would like to engage in this work, please reach out. We all have a role to play in advancing anti-racism in our schools, and teacher evaluation rubrics can be a great place to start or continue efforts to ensure equity for all students. 

Huge THANK YOU to Carrie, Ashley, Talia, and Lisa from all of the Hendy team! 

Team Spotlight: Meet Sarah Rosskamm

You’ve met Jessica, Erica, and Jeremy, and now it’s my turn to share! I founded Hendy Avenue Consulting almost 8 years ago and never imagined the amazing team and clients we have today. I’m excited to share with you a bit about how I started and what drives me in this work. It’s great to meet you!

Why did you choose to work in education? 

When I was in high school and college, I worked at the New York State Sheriff’s Camp, nestled in the Finger Lakes of Western NY. The sheriffs from each county in the state identified children who were high risk and invited them to attend the camp. Through swimming, boating, arts and crafts, and camp songs, these young people who had survived incredibly challenging life circumstances would slowly shed their armour and get to be kids – even if only for a week. I saw the power of this experience and chose to be a Human Services major to open my own camp one day. My junior year of college, however, I learned about Teach For America and decided to explore teaching as another way to create opportunities for kids. As a first grade teacher in San Jose, California, I was able to witness the magic of little ones first learning to read. I loved their giggles and enthusiasm for every new experience. Like my young students, I too am a first generation college kid and was well aware that the odds were already stacked against them. I knew that my students’ educational experiences were going to determine their life outcomes and I wanted to be a part of it. I committed then, 20 years ago, to education and have been pursuing ways to make schools better for kids ever since. 

What’s your favorite part of your job? 

My favorite part of my job is working with and learning from incredibly talented and committed people. The Hendy team is just the best and I’m so proud to call these people my friends and partners in this work. Likewise, our clients are all amazing people who are doing such amazing things for kids. I love getting to work closely with an organization to help them solve their problems. I also love convening people to work together to find innovative solutions. I really do have a great job and feel very lucky for the opportunity to do this work. 

What’s the problem in education you most want to solve? 

I want being an educator to be a valued and celebrated profession. As a young teacher, I witnessed phenomenal veteran teachers without a voice in school decisions not being treated as the professionals they are. It was such a missed opportunity for my school and it’s a missed opportunity for the education field as a whole. I believe that by elevating the profession and leveraging the expertise of educators, we’ll be able to better attract and retain teachers from all walks of life and greatly increase outcomes for children. 

At this particular moment, I’m also painfully aware of the disparity of Covid-era education. The achievement gaps were immense before Covid and are sure to expand given the broad range of school experiences children are having today. We need to quickly work to understand kids’ academic and emotional needs and create plans for targeted remediation. We need to take a holistic/society approach to ensuring that the kids who need the most are getting the most from our systems and our educators. 

What’s a favorite book or quote? 

I’ve always loved the quote from Lee Iococca, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest would have to settle for something less”. It’s such a simple idea that is widely held in many other countries, but one we still haven’t internalized in the U.S. Remote learning has given parents new insights into the incredible commitment and creativity of teachers. My hope is that the appreciation people feel for teachers today evolves into culture, policies, and practices that lead to the best of us in the classroom and the rest of us settling for less. 

What do you like to do outside of work? 

Outside of work, I love to spend time with my family and our friends. You can most often find us in Brooklyn playing sports and games, hanging out with friends in Prospect Park, or (pre-Covid) traveling to spend time with our extended family. Our five year old is patiently trying to teach me chess and our three year old performs an animated daily puppet show. Today we are excitedly awaiting a big snowstorm in NYC with sleds and hot cocoa at the ready!

Sarah, Mike, Max (5) and Eli (3) reaching the top of the “mountain” while hiking in Cleveland

Self-Care and Team-Care: Maintaining Well-Being, Energy, and Mental Health

This year is hard. Really, really hard. It’s been hard on you and it’s been hard on your team. And yet, because of the young lives at stake in our work, we must carry on. How we approach our commitment to our students will determine whether we are successful now and whether we can continue over the long haul. That’s why last month our Chief Talent Officer cohort reflected on our own self-care and on how we care for our teams. We’re sharing a few of the ideas that came from that session in the hopes that others will lead with self-care and team-care. 

  1. Defining Stress vs Burnout:. Stress is the brain and body’s response to challenges requiring an emotional, physical or mental response. Burnout is the feeling of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and reduced professional efficacy. Too much stress can lead to burnout. We can’t eliminate stress from our lives, but we can work on how we respond to stress so we can avoid burnout.
  2. Self-Care: Self-care drives well-being which drives engagement. Self-care means really different things to different people, but is ultimately about prioritizing your individual needs.. The old saying of putting on your own oxygen mask first continues to ring true. First ensuring you have the necessary rest, healthy food, exercise, laughter, and emotional fulfillment will enable you to lead your team to do the same.
  3. Team Leadership Around Self-Care: A leader who models self-care in their own life and encourages it in others will have a healthier and happier team. While self-care truly is about the self, there are key actions a leader can take to improve the lives of their team and to reduce burnout. So what is it that a leader can control? Below are a few examples our cohort members are putting into action: 
  • What they model
    • Giving themselves time off from work with activities that fuel them to do the tough work AND explicitly sharing why they are taking time off
    • Planning ahead for something to look forward to and sharing plans with the team as a model to others (for example: a trip, an event, a home renovation, a competitive race, etc.) 
  • What they expect 
    • Creating and maintaining a clear culture of not working on the weekends 
    • Asking the team to share when their vacation days are planned to ensure team members are taking the time off they need and deserve
    • Identifying what can be dialed back, what work is truly essential work and what is not, or “what balls are glass and which are plastic?”
    • Identifying who can take on more to free up time for folks directly serving students; for example, ensuring the central office is taking as much work as possible off the plates of principals, school leaders are taking as much work as possible off the plates of teachers, etc.
    • Scheduling a weekly asynchronous day for students so the team can focus on planning and working with their teammates
    • Explicitly asking the team about their childcare situation and what they will need to be successful, and providing accommodations as are feasible
  • What norms/culture they create 
    • Celebrating effectiveness, even when the work is difficult. This is not about expecting perfection, or holding one staff person up at the expense of another – but about ensuring that staff feel effective in their jobs, especially when the work is more complex or demanding than in pre-pandemic times
    • Starting meetings with a “mood meter” to allow people to share feelings (and then asking if they want to shift or stay where they are) 
    • Implementing a sunshine committee to celebrate life events 
    • Hosting remote games nights and other social events with the team (and sometimes with their families) 
    • Creating optional Monday community space on Zoom to provide staff the opportunity to connect with others 
  • What they provide 
    • Early end of day on Fridays
    • Financial literacy webinars for staff
    • Food, care packages, gift cards, pop-in massages (pre-Covid)
    • Access to meditation apps such as Headspace
    • Having a doctor come to school/office for flu shots

What have you done to support your own self-care and to support your team in their self-care? What impact have you seen?