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Hendy Avenue: Fall 2020 Update

Dear colleagues and friends,

We’re sending all of you our very best today, knowing this time has been challenging in so many ways. We hope you and your families are healthy, safe, and energized to make change. Please know we’re right here with you and are happy to help however we can. And for all the parents and educators heading back to school this week, we’ve got this!

To kick off our annual update, we have big news to share: The Hendy Avenue Consulting has added another awesome member to our team! Please join us in welcoming Erica Murphy, former Chief Curriculum and Instruction Officer at Ascend Public Charter Schools. Erica’s experience as an excellent school leader and fearless academic leader allows us to provide even more comprehensive support to our partners. Please see Erica’s full bio below and on our About page and reach out to discuss how we can help – particularly as school systems are rewriting the playbook for both instruction and talent. We’d love to work with you!

We also want to share our deep appreciation for our colleague and dear friend, Grant Newman. Grant was the first person hired by Sarah to join the Hendy team and over the past 5.5 years, he has been an invaluable partner in building Hendy and has deeply impacted many, many clients. This summer, Grant transitioned to New Leaders as the Senior Executive Director of Program Strategy and Operations. We wish Grant the very best of luck and know he’ll always be a part of the Hendy family! 

This has truly been an extraordinary and unpredictable year. As both parents and educators, we’ve struggled to navigate these unchartered waters. But we’ve found strength in our team and sought to support school systems in new and important ways. Looking back on the past year, our proudest moments include: 

  • Renewed Partnerships: 100% of our current client partners are returning partners. We build strong relationships, do great work, build leader capacity, and make an impact. As a result, we’re proud to say that all of our current partners are those that we have worked with before and have chosen to continue with us into a new phase of a project, or to partner on a completely new project. We truly value those opportunities to have a meaningful and long-term impact and are so grateful for the incredible leaders who have chosen to work with us. Please read below to learn more about our current work with the Delaware Department of Education, KIPP Texas Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, Hebrew Public Schools, Breakthrough Public Schools, and The Nationals Youth Baseball Academy.
  • Covid Response: In the early months of the pandemic, we supported our clients to adjust course and rethink their priorities. Now we are continuing those partnerships with a new focus on revising talent practices to ensure that teachers and leaders feel safe, valued, and supported through this challenging year. It has become abundantly clear that school systems who achieve that goal will be successful and those who fail to respond to the needs of their educators will not be able to serve their students effectively. From revising teacher evaluation systems to articulating reopening talent policies to training school leaders to manage in this new environment, we have responded to the needs of our partners and continued to walk hand-in-hand with them. We’ve also practiced what we’ve preached. As a team, we’ve been flexible to each other’s needs, jumped in to help each other out, and shown appreciation for the commitment and perseverance of the Hendy team.
  • CTO Cohort: Established in 2018 by Hendy Avenue Consulting, the NYC Chief Talent Officer braintrust functions as a collaborative cohort for senior talent leaders of high-impact school management organizations to share best practices, problem-solve and leverage community to improve outcomes for students. Since inception, the braintrust has met monthly, establishing a valued space to collaborate with others wrestling with similar challenges. In the face of crisis and uncertainty this spring, the group began meeting weekly, maximizing the value of what has become a tight-knit community and trusted soundboard. As a result, 100% of our cohort members would recommend the cohort to other talents leaders.
    • We are thrilled to announce our 2020-2021 cohort with CTOs from Achievement First, Brooklyn Prospect, Coney Island Prep, Democracy Prep, DREAM, Explore, Hebrew Public, and Public Prep and can’t wait to kick off the year with these incredible leaders! Given both the success of the cohort and the need for collaboration during times of uncertainty, we are also actively looking to expand the program. If you’re interested in learning more, please check out our new Cohorts website page.
  • Anti-Racist Work: We have taken a close look at ourselves, our support to others, and the tools and policies we create to identify racist and white dominant actions and beliefs and shift toward become an overtly anti-racist organization. We recognize that the talent systems we create have a profound impact on real people and are reviewing them through a critical lens. We’ve added new measures of success for our work, identified more proactive ways to address racial inequities with our clients, are actively looking for ways to elevate the voices of black and brown leaders, and are identifying more opportunities to partner with organizations led by people of color. We’d love to hear about resources you’ve found helpful on your own journey to be an anti-racist organization.
  • Teacher Evaluation in 20-21: In searching for talent tools for the coming year, we identified a lack of information about how to approach teacher evaluation in a remote or hybrid environment. We decided to publish recommendations and planning tools and shared them during a recent webinar. Most importantly, we brought leaders together to share their ideas and as a result, a group formed to continue the collaboration on an on-going basis. Looking ahead, we’re planning a new session on Wednesday, October 14th on Effective Coaching in a Remote Learning Environment. Follow us on LinkedIn for more information soon!
  • Academic Supports: Through our many partners, we see the power of academics and talent working together. As a result, we’ve recently begun work to help bridge that gap, focusing on talent development through academic program strategy, professional development on curriculum and instruction, and the building of academic tools to support excellence in teaching. Through our partnership with Hebrew Public Schools, we are reviewing their current mathematics program and supporting them to create and execute a new strategic direction. Both Jeremy and Erica bring strong academic as well as talent backgrounds to our team, and we are excited to integrate both the academic and talent lenses for stronger support to schools. 

Please let us know how we can help you meet your goals.We are proud that over the past six years, 100% of our clients have indicated on our annual survey that they would refer us to others; and we would love to discuss partnering with you.Please also check out our blog, follow us on LinkedIn and follow us on Twitter

Thank you for your continued support. Please reach out if we can help.

Sarah

Current Projects

  • Delaware Department of Education: Having partnered with the Delaware Dept of Education in various capacities since 2013, we’re currently leading the multi-year, statewide initiative to improve Delaware’s teacher observation and evaluation rubric and process. Our team is working closely with teachers, school leaders and other stakeholders to design, pilot and implement a new rubric and evaluation process that will support fair and accurate evaluations of teacher practice and will guide ongoing teacher development.
  • KIPP Texas Public Schools: We began working with KIPP Austin in 2015, then KIPP Houston beginning in 2017, and we’re now supporting the integration of the KIPP Texas Public Schools’ aligned talent development strategy across the Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Dallas-Ft. Worth regions. We’re also leading a new project to identify effective development and retention strategies for new teachers.
  • Chicago Public Schools: Our team is partnering with Chicago Public Schools to strengthen school administrators as talent leaders in their buildings through the development of training modules on key talent practices. We’re working across multiple departments to ensure alignment of vision for practices such as recruitment, selection, induction, leadership development and retention. Our project has been renewed for a second year for a total of 12 learning modules and continued cross-department alignment and collaboration. 
  • Hebrew Public Schools: We’re currently supporting Hebrew Public’s Chief Schools Officer and network team in determining priorities and methods for improving math teaching and learning across their four schools. In addition, we are facilitating professional development sessions for mathematics teachers and their coaches. Looking ahead, we plan to continue to support the successful implementation of the mathematics program in the new school year.
  • Breakthrough Public Schools: We’re supporting the Cleveland charter network to prepare for school reopening by providing human capital expertise and capacity and articulating talent policies and practices for different learning environments. We recently also supported Breakthrough Public Schools Chief Academic Officer to strategically plan for the network’s reorganization and supported the network to identify a Chief Community Officer. 
  • The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy: The team is supporting The Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy through partnering directly with the executive director to engage all levels of stakeholders in the collaborative generation of a 5-year strategic plan to deepen The Academy’s impact. 

Erica Murphy joined Hendy Avenue Consulting because she believes that effective teacher development programs and high quality observation and feedback cycles are essential to supporting and growing our nation’s teachers. Before joining Hendy, Erica served as the Chief Curriculum and Instruction Officer at Ascend Public Charter Schools. In that role, Erica managed the design and implementation of Ascend’s unique liberal arts curriculum and supervised the professional development of all instructional leaders, principals and principal managers. Prior to assuming this role, Erica served as school director of Brownsville Ascend Lower School for five years. During that time, her school’s proficiency rates increased 30 percentage points in English language arts and 34 percentage points in mathematics. In school year 2016-17, Erica’s school achieved the second-highest score improvement among New York City charter schools. Erica joined the Ascend network as a second-grade teacher, team leader, and instructional coach at Brooklyn Ascend Lower School where she consistently posted the highest math results in the network. Before joining Ascend, she was a research associate at the New York City Department of Education’s Research and Policy Support Group, and she spent several years as an elementary school teacher in a NYC Department of Education school in the South Bronx. She holds a master’s of public administration from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs; a master’s in elementary education from Lehman College; and a bachelor’s degree in psychology and Spanish from Washington University in Saint Louis.

Hendy Webinar Aug 5: Is your teacher evaluation system ready for Covid-19?

Ensuring that teachers feel safe, valued, and supported is at the heart of successfully reopening schools this fall. Development and evaluation systems can play a big role in defining the teacher’s experience and should be thoughtfully re-designed and communicated to meet those goals. The Hendy Avenue Consulting team has partnered with districts, states and CMOs to identify solutions to the tough questions around how to best develop and evaluate teachers in a remote or hybrid environment in a way that is consistent, fair, and supports teacher growth. We look forward to meeting with you and other system leaders to discuss the challenges, opportunities presented, and possible solutions for effectively supporting and evaluating teachers this year.

Please Join Us: Wednesday, August 5th at 4:00pm EST 
REGISTER HERE!

Re-Thinking Teacher Development and Evaluation in 20-21: Facilitated by Hendy Avenue Consulting’s Jeremy Abarno and Sarah Rosskamm, please join other system leaders to learn how to approach teacher evaluation and development in a hybrid or remote environment and to connect with other system leaders in small group conversations and resource sharing.

Are You a Leader Feeling Stuck Right Now? Ask Yourself These Questions

Leaders make sense of things for others, untangling knots of confusion and ambiguity. This responsibility compounds during a crisis and is even harder when you are feeling like a mess yourself!

To “un-mess” myself, I like to use a strategy that worked for me as a kid – some good old-fashioned self-talk – ala Lev Vygotsky. My grown-up version of self-talk takes the form of questions that I ask and answer myself (I only occasionally do this out loud). The good news is they’ve also worked well for my colleagues and the people I coach – and I hope they will for you too.

1. Am I keeping the mission and values central to every decision I am making? Remembering why you do the work and what you stand for–and will not stand for—are critical to good decision-making and productivity in a crisis. We all need to be grounded or anchored, and this question always gets me back to center.

2. What can I simplify at work, in my life, and for my team? Accomplishing even the simplest things can seem insurmountable when your world is turned upside down. Our economy shutting down, communications rhythms changing, and having your whole “way of working” change overnight has had pretty serious ripple effects. A strong leader works to simplify things for themselves and for their team. Doing so can focus a team and allow them to even feel motivated with newfound direction.

3. How can I work collaboratively to identify bias, blind-spots, and inequities in our decisions and work without thwarting decisiveness? Even if it isn’t within your normal mode, you’ll have to move fast to make decisions and to give direction in crisis. Acting on instinct and doing so confidently provides what seems most needed – guidance. However, our instincts are inherently biased and we have blind spots. We can’t let the need to provide guidance and decisiveness over-ride informed decision-making. Take a second, ask a trusted colleague, mentor or team-member to check your thinking and make sure it’s someone who thinks differently and is willing to challenge you.

4. How am I adding value or support during the interactions that I have? If you’re leading a team, it’s likely that you’re getting bombarded with questions or working to keep people engaged while managing your own stuff (which is very real right now). In this harried time, there’s a big risk that some of these interactions devolve into transactions. Getting things done now is important, but you have to remember that the fight against inequity is an ultra-marathon; and building team and developing people can’t be lost in all of this. Make sure that you are entering conversations and interactions with intention and aiming to add value in as many interactions as possible.

5. Am I keeping my team and those around me appropriately updated (without overwhelming them)? You are likely hearing all sorts of news from every direction – schools are staying closed; the budget situation is going from bad to worse; inequities are deepening, and trauma is reigning. As a leader you have the unenviable position of knowing all of these things. Part of your job is to keep your team updated, but appropriately: giving people the information they need to do their best, transparently, without causing undue stress or concern by sharing too much.

6. How can I consistently be straightforward about where we are and what we still don’t know while still having relentless hope about the future? Mandela taught us that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it; and Stockdale taught us that a brutal honesty about our realities paired with an unwavering confidence that we’ll prevail is key to thriving.  Leaders must be clear about both the challenges we’re facing and have confidence that we’ll win in the end—because we have to. Pragmatic optimism is the key, especially in a time when, more than ever, people need the truth and hope.

Getting to clarity is hard enough to do on your own right now, much less for a team or your entire organization, but it’s sorely needed. Engaging in some disciplined reflection before or while you act will ensure that you, and more importantly, your teams and stakeholders will have a much clearer pathway forward – which is exactly what we need right now.

– Jeremy 

Special thanks to Gallup and Impact Ladder for inspiring some of these questions.

Black Lives Matter.

Our Hendy Avenue team supports the Black Lives Matter movement and condemns all acts of racism. 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.

Leaders, It’s Okay to Take Off the Cape

Leadership is difficult in good times. In times of crisis, this difficulty grows exponentially. This notion has become even more clear through my work supporting a Chief-level leader through the restructuring of a network of schools.  This leader’s plate was full before the COVID crisis hit, and their responsibility and leadership scope has essentially doubled as a result of COVID: becoming responsible for orchestrating the network’s response to the abrupt closure of schools, and most significantly designing and implementing virtual instruction. Daily they are responding to questions and concerns from families, teachers, staff, and principals, and are looked to by staff to both assuage fears and set a concrete vision and plan for next steps. 

My client reflected on having to spend all of their time being “on.” Conference call after call, zoom meeting after meeting, this leader has to be the one with all the answers, or the plan to find the answers. Staff call them for advice and support, or to complain about the way other team members are responding. And my client has to be there to listen, console and plan. All day, every day.

Yes, great leaders provide security and vision to their teams to manage through crises, but fulfilling that role is incredibly draining. Last week, my client and I reflected on how nice it is for them to have a chance to “take off the cape” during our check-ins: to not have to have all the answers, to be able to complain about how difficult all of this is, and to express disappointment, fear and anger honestly. I was honored that my client saw our check-in as the time for them to take that guard down and to be able to react to and reflect on how the work was weighing on them. It also provided an opportunity for us to brainstorm ways that we can handle the burden of leadership to meet the needs of staff without burning out.

I also saw this as a reflection of what we at Hendy pride ourselves on: walking arm-in-arm with our clients as they design solutions and create programs to better serve teachers and kids. Sometimes that relationship means gently pushing our clients to do something differently; other times it means accelerating full speed ahead on executing a plan. In these crazy times, it has sometimes meant simply providing a space for our clients to “take off their capes”, to reflect honestly about the difficulties of being a leader in crisis, and to know that leading others requires us to take care of ourselves.

-Jess

Don’t You Want to Stay? Virtual Stay Conversations as Key Teacher Retention Strategy

Teacher and staff retention is a common concern we hear from school leaders in “normal” times. One of the most efficient and lowest cost methods we have found for encouraging great teachers to stay is by holding “stay conversations”. A stay conversation is an informal chance to share how much you appreciate a teacher’s work, and to directly ask them to stay at your school for the following school year. Stay conversations don’t take much effort, but they have a big impact. When teachers were asked why they left their school, a common response was simply that no one asked them to stay.*

A stay conversation usually happens in a regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting with the teacher. Stay conversations should begin early in the year, ideally before winter break. Leaders can and should continue to communicate value and priority to teachers throughout the spring. This way, if teachers are presented with an opportunity to leave their school, they know how much they are valued and are less likely to leave.

That’s how stay conversations might proceed in normal times. These, however, are not “normal” times. The challenge and uncertainty of the pandemic makes retaining teachers even more critical. Just because we are all working virtually, leaders should not stop holding stay conversations. In fact, the best practices for stay conversations still apply: keep the conversation brief, affirm how much you value the teacher, and articulate how important they are to your students and school. Be honest about the challenges of remote teaching and uncertainty of what the fall might look like. Then share why the teacher is an important part of the team, especially in this uncertainty. Strong teachers are providing a lifeline to families and students right now, and they will continue to need your great teachers when school restarts in the fall. Finally, ask the teacher directly to stay at your school next year. 

Ideally you are touching base with each teacher individually on a regular basis during this time of remote teaching and learning. These one-on-ones can be quick check-ins to ask the teacher how things are going for them, and how you can support them. And they are a great time to say directly how much you value the teacher’s work, and ask them to stay next fall. 

P.S. If you need a soundtrack to your stay conversations, try this pop, or R&B, or classic rock, or country, or early 90s style (my personal favorite)!

-Jessica

*From The Irreplaceables, TNTP, 2012.

Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week 2020

Early May is one of our favorite times of the year. The weather warms, flowers bloom, and teachers are celebrated for an entire week! While we think teachers (and leaders) should be recognized everyday for their tremendous work, Teacher Appreciation Week, this year from May 4 – May 8, is a nice formal opportunity to say thank you. 

Though we are teaching, learning, and working virtually, here are 7 ideas for celebrating teachers: 

  • Send a personal note. More than ever, teachers are inundated with emails and texts. A personal note – sent via the old fashioned, but dependable USPS – can go far for anyone, including your teachers. 
  • Give a gift. Sometimes, someone taking care of the dinner that night is all you need to make it peacefully to tomorrow. Gift cards, meals from local restaurants, and gift certificates to local businesses are always appreciated. Even a small plant left on the teacher’s doorstep to “decorate their home office” is a meaningful way to say thanks. 
  • Give time. For leaders, consider cancelling a regular staff meeting and encouraging teachers to use the “found time” to do something for themselves. 
  • Get families to engage. Ask families to record a short video clip, write notes of appreciation or text pictures of homemade thank you cards. 
  • Party in a box. Put together a small package of party supplies–balloons, sunglasses, streamers, candy, and a small gift or two–and mail it to each teacher with a label on the outside directing them not to open until a certain date and time. During a staff meeting, have everyone open their boxes simultaneously and start the party!
  • Opportunities for input. For some, the greatest recognition is the opportunity to be heard and enhance their impact. Think of ways to bring teachers into decisions–about curriculum, schedules, virtual learning and more. 
  • Shout-outs. While you may not be physically together, shouting out teachers in meetings, emails, and on social media/websites is a simple, but effective method for letting folks know you value and appreciate them, and a great way to highlight the values you most want your team to exemplify. 

Yes, You Can Stop Doing That

Before COVID-19, education leaders prided ourselves in being goal oriented professionals, doing everything in our power to support student success. Working in schools, districts, CMOs, state departments of education and in supporting organizations, we took pride in our commitment to do whatever it takes, knocking through barriers, and always maintaining high expectations for ourselves and others. 

But now, that day is over. Or at least on pause. We are balancing full days of meetings with full days of homeschooling our own children, we are nursing ourselves or our families back to health, we are facing fear, frustration, and grief. Our lives have changed and so too must our expectations for ourselves and for others. 

Talking with talent leaders across the country, We’re discovering that many simply need to hear, “You can stop doing that. It will be ok.” It’s time to re-prioritize and focus on the purpose of your work, not stay wed to the original plan or program. Schools can be our model. Teachers and principals are learning a whole new way to educate students. They are no longer teaching the same lesson plan, but they are working toward the same standards, ensuring that students are able to learn and grow. District and network leaders need to do the same. 

For example, we were recently asked by talent leaders in both a big urban district and in a big charter network about how to continue their robust evaluation systems. While we firmly believe in systems of teacher development, evaluation, recognition and pathways (and have spent most of my career focused on them), now is the time to pause and reassess. It’s the time to ask yourself what the ultimate purpose of your work is and if your system is doing that now. It’s time to simplify and focus on achieving that original purpose, not to MacGyver a complicated and time consuming process. When we talked with leaders about their multiple measure evaluation systems we were direct – your student achievement measures based on interim data aren’t going to be accurate and won’t help teachers get better, so don’t do that. Your families don’t have time to give feedback on teachers, so don’t do that. Your teachers aren’t teaching in ways that align to the observation rubric and had to learn this new method in a day, so don’t do that. Instead, coach and support the adults to do the best they can in a tough situation so they can be their best for kids.

The purpose is always to support people to get better and stay longer. 

Is your system doing that now?

As a talent leader, we recommend focusing your time and energy into five priorities:

  1. Communicate clearly and transparently – State what you know and what you don’t yet know. Be clear about the values that are driving decisions and what is being prioritized right now. Be real about your own fears and your own optimism. And find ways to connect. You can share a video, hold office hours or reach out one on one. In doing so, always focus on the employee’s needs as a person.
  2. Listen to and support your school leaders – School leaders are struggling through this time, navigating their own emotions and disappointments, and those of their teachers, students and families. Be responsive to their needs and make them your priority. When you need their input, make it as easy as possible for them. Give them a clear proposal and let them react. 
  3. Retain your staff – Have “stay conversations” so people know they are valued and appreciated. Ask them directly through conversations or surveys what their plans are for the fall. Consider how to retain salaries through limited budgets and how to incentivize people through non-monetary compensation.
  4. Recruit and hire new candidates – Hiring will need to move online, but keep the process moving. Think about how to get hiring managers comfortable granting offers remotely and how to get candidates comfortable to accept offers. Identify how to bring your schools’ unique culture to candidates. For more, check out TNTP’s Virtual Hiring Guide and Fast Company’s article on unconscious bias.
  5. Recognize and celebrate people – Consider cancelling performance based rewards based on results from 2019-2020 and re-use these funds to recognize teachers now (or returning teachers in the fall). Identify ways to say thank you for the hard work and creativity people are bringing to the work. For example, a personal thank you message, a take-out restaurant gift certificate or a retention bonus at the start of next school year are all effective in letting people know they are appreciated. 

As our fearless talent leaders, we want to say thank you for taking care of the adults so they can take care of the children. And, yes, you can stop doing that.

Consulting in the Time of Corona

We are all adjusting. For some, it’s a shift to full-time work from home; for others it’s becoming first-time teachers helping their children stay on track while out of school, whether it be modeling the concept of multiplication with blocks or explaining how the ghost in Hamlet provides examples of foreshadowing; others are essential workers adjusting to added spotlight and stress during the COVID crisis. 

And then, there are those who are sick themselves. For almost three weeks in March, this was me. It started with a couple days feeling a bit more tired than usual, but soon turned into a high fever, full body aches, exhaustion, ongoing chills and night sweats. Once the fever broke after four days, I remained exhausted and developed chest tightness and a persistent, dry cough. Around day 13, after watching four seasons of The Sopranos, two seasons of The Great British Baking Show, and of course, Tiger King, I started to feel more like myself, but the cough lingered. I inched back to work, having been completely detached from my computer, let alone clients, the entire time. Finally, at three weeks, I had no symptoms, was back to work fully and celebrated, feeling truly thankful that I never had breathing difficulty or required hospitalization.

I share these less than fun symptoms for the sole reason of letting others know that they are not alone. The virus is rough–my case was “mild”–and takes a long time to clear; but don’t lose faith on day 7 and of course, keep in touch with your doctor regularly to plan your care. 

Reflecting on my experience produced a few cliche-heavy reminders for me, that may be helpful to consider if you are ill or caring for a sick loved-one. 

  1. Put your oxygen mask on first. I was completely wiped out and felt physically terrible and emotionally defeated. I hate not feeling productive, am terrible at asking for help, and miserable being dependent on others; but my reality required I not only stop working, managing meals, and walking the dog, but prioritize recovering above all else and accept that it was 100% okay to do so. I had to tell myself, “I will be better for it and my work will be better for it”.  
  2. Communicate. When sick, we often rely on the help of loved-ones around us. Remember: they can’t read your mind. You have to communicate your feelings and needs, and they have to ask a lot of questions to care for you. Be direct, but kind, remember that everyone is stressed and living in uncertainty. Worry shows itself in lots of ways, so give everyone in your life a bit of grace. Be honest with people about the type and frequency of communication. If you want a text message from your 5 best friends each day, let them know how much it means when they check in. If you don’t want to have your phone buzzing all night, let the frequent callers in your life know the schedule you’re trying to keep and when you plan to next reach out. 
  3. Have a plan. Dealing with any illness is stressful, but COVID-19 in particular is new with little scientific study and a tendency to change in intensity quite quickly. I recommend having a plan in place for any potential escalation of symptoms. Specifically, know what hospital/clinic you will go to and how, list who you will contact, plan for any child or pet-care implications, and have already-packed overnight bags by the door. 
  4. Go slow to go fast. Once I started to feel well, I wanted life to immediately return to normal; I longed for the sense of accomplishment from completing a task, a mid-day bike-ride through Prospect Park, a nice dinner with a glass of red wine. I had these dreams, while simultaneously barely able to make it through the day without a 3 hour nap. To those of you sick or recovering, go slow and be kind to yourself. No, things will not be “normal” for a while, but the more you honor your physical and emotional needs now, the sooner you’ll be back to feeling like yourself.

-Grant

Principals and teachers are supporting kids. Who is supporting the principals and teachers?

All across our country, school systems are scrambling to re-invent education. Our school, district and state-level leaders are working to ensure that their families and students are safe.  School staff is hustling to make sure that their students have their basic needs met, while simultaneously inventing systems for distance learning. Committed school leaders and teachers, as usual, are laser-focused on supporting families and preserving learning. But who is focused on the grown-ups? Who is orienting themselves towards this whole new way of working?

Remote work and distance learning have thrown a huge curveball at the talent/HR world and, besides ensuring safety and learning, arguably the next most important thing for school systems is to figure how to support and manage a remote workforce (particularly one that has happened in person up until now!). Talent leaders and management teams across the education sector are working to figure things out within their organizations in just a matter of days. It’s enough to make your head spin. I don’t know about you but when a crisis like this happens I can sometimes be guilty of putting my head down like a running back and charging through the problems.  I did this during 9/11 and during Hurricane Sandy. This time it’s different, the event is not happening in a day, a week, its looks like it will last months. Putting your head down and charging through might work for a while but this needs to be a heads-up and collaborative effort.

I have the great fortune to be the facilitator for a New York City-based Chief Talent Officer cohort called the “CTO Braintrust”. It’s is a small group of six talent heads from various CMO’s in NYC founded two years ago by Hendy Avenue Consulting with the belief that effective leaders need professional communities of trusted colleagues, where they can learn and grow together. The group functions as a collaborative cohort to share best practices and problem-solve on topics like DE&I, compensation, succession planning, leadership development, performance evaluation, and more.  Up until a few weeks ago we met about once a month. Our cohort members have valued a space to collaborate with others wrestling with similar challenges and the group has become a tight-knit community and a trusted soundboard.

Since schools across NYC closed, the CTO cohort has relied on each other more than ever. The group has been coming together weekly and emailing almost daily to support each other in solving the myriad challenges that are facing schools and networks right now. We have been tackling all sorts of questions of various shapes and sizes:

  • “What are best practices for remote management?”
  •  “What will we do about annual reviews if schools stay closed? Can we evaluate remote instruction?”
  • “How can we support employee well being in the time of a crisis as they attend to the needs of kids and families?”
  • “How can we adjust our policies around sick days to give grace to our employees when they or a family member fall ill to the virus?”
  • “How do we interview and hire remotely?”
  • “How does the closure impact our performance management?”
  • “How are we now thinking about our budgets and compensation?”
  • “Can you really just cancel spring break?”

There are thousands of other questions that we are tackling and every time it feels like it is just too much to handle, all I do is remind myself that I am going to be able to reach out to this talented and supportive group of people for help. Some folks have been “lifting up” the beauty within this crisis and sharing the strength of the human spirit and I couldn’t think of a better group to highlight than the CTO Braintrust that all at one time is supporting their network of schools, supporting their own friends and families and supporting each other. There really is something about working together to help endure a crisis. Teamwork makes the dream work, but it also helps get us through nightmares.

-Jeremy