Posts by Hendy Avenue

Team Spotlight: Meet Erica Murphy

  • Erica with her husband and daughters, Hadley (5) and Tessa (3).

Today we’re highlighting our newest member of the Hendy team, Erica Murphy, who joined us from Ascend Public Schools. Erica is currently supporting our long-term partner, KIPP Texas Public Schools, to effectively integrate and implement their Teacher Career Pathway across their four regions and also to develop a plan to improve new teacher retention and development. Erica was an outstanding teacher, principal, and academic leader who knows curriculum and instruction inside and out. She loves solving problems and helping both kids and adults to meet their potential. We’re thrilled to have this incredible educator bring her many skills and talents to the Hendy team. She’s already making a huge impact! Enjoy this interview with Erica!

Why did you choose to work in education?

When I was a little girl I loved to play school. I would organize my stuffed animals to be my “class” and I would teach them – for hours. As I got older and continued to “play school” with friends, I realized I had an ability to explain things to people in a way they really understood. In middle and high school, I would watch my peers ask a question in class when they were confused by something taught. I’d watch the response from the teacher and sometimes see that my friend was still confused, though the conversation moved on. I’d always find the person after class to attempt to clarify whatever the confusion was and I was generally pretty good at it. 

The “aha” moment my friends would have after I supported them was the most gratifying experience. It was like a puzzle to me – I loved being able to identify the specific point of confusion, and then help people make sense of what we were all struggling to learn.  As an educator now, I believe great teaching is doing just that – observing students to better understand what they know and what they don’t yet know and then designing tasks and questions to help get them get to understanding. I get a thrill out of that kind of student observation and creative problem solving.

What was your first year of teaching like?

My first year of teaching was – by far – the hardest professional year of my life. Before entering the classroom, I had dreams of fostering a strong classroom culture, connecting deeply with my students and their families, and bringing learning alive in the classroom in a rigorous and relatable way. Instead, I struggled. I struggled to establish a classroom focused on learning. I struggled to connect with my students. I struggled to make learning relevant and interesting to my students. It felt like I was sinking. 

My school didn’t have a robust coaching program, strong professional development opportunities, or a central curriculum and so, like many first year teachers, I was left to figure things out on my own. Every day, I felt like I couldn’t go back. I was exhausted – both emotionally and physically – but knew that I had to show up to try and do the best I could with my students. I was lucky to have another first year teacher next door who was struggling as much as I was. After school, she and I would (honestly) cry and then talk about what we could do differently the next day. We’d invent new routines, new morning meeting protocols, we’d change seating arrangements, revamp lessons to make them more engaging – anything to try and be better than the day before. 

Eventually, not through any great turning point or event, just by sheer hard work, will, slowly building relationships with my kids, and by constantly testing out and refining my practices I got better. I slowly learned to be clearer, more planned, more purposeful and more engaging. By February break of that first year I finally felt like I had some sense of what I should be doing. I started to swim. 

My advice to first year teachers – don’t give up, find a mentor or friend or colleague to work with, and be willing to iterate, iterate, iterate until you figure out a style and a set of practices that works for you. 

What’s your favorite part of your job?

Probably not surprisingly given my experience, my favorite part of my job is supporting and developing teachers! I don’t think everyone’s first year of teaching needs to be so hard and so lonely. With thoughtful, purposeful training, coaching and development, we can create practices that prepare our teachers for the classroom faster and more effectively.

As a principal, I devoted most of my time and my leadership team’s time to observing, coaching and supporting our newest teachers. We created opportunities for newer teachers to be observed more, coached more, and to teach less in their first months in the classroom. They had the opportunity to observe excellent teachers within our building and learn from the best. These teachers had the support of the school behind them while learning, and they and their students fared better for it.

In my role now, I get to work with districts to develop network-wide strategies to better develop and retain teachers. I am so excited at the prospect of creating systems and practices that allow every single teacher to be intentionally developed and eased into the profession in a way that is healthy for them and their students. 

What’s a favorite book or quote?

During my first year as a principal, I posted this quote on the white board above my desk. It helped me keep things in perspective and get ready for each new day. 

Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense.

What do you like to do outside of work?

Outside of work, I love to read, run, and spend time with my two daughters.

Even when I’m exhausted, I’ll read at least one page before bed. I love to read anything – fiction, non-fiction, biographies, you name it! Some of my recent favorites include The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, and Moonglow by Michael Chabon. 

I run almost every day – it helps me clear my mind and decompress. I ran my first marathon during my first year of teaching – I think it was the only way I was able to make it through that incredibly demanding year. I love to run in Prospect Park and my oldest daughter sometimes runs with me these days!

I love doing just about anything with my two daughters – Hadley and Tessa. We paint, read, go to the park, play with brain flakes, go out for french fries, and make jewelry. Their energy and enthusiasm for things never ceases to make me smile.

Team Spotlight: Meet Jessica Wilson

Dave, James (age 8), Grace (age 6) and I in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this summer

In this blog series, we’re introducing you to the incredible people who make up the Hendy Avenue Consulting team. To kick us off, we’re excited to introduce you to Jessica Wilson, who joined Hendy in September 2017 and has supported a broad range of clients including the Delaware Department of Education, Breakthrough Public Schools and Independence Mission Schools. Jess is super smart, incredibly witty, a dedicated teammate, and deeply committed to students. She makes our whole team better every day. We hope you enjoy this interview with our wonderful Jessica Wilson.

Why did you choose to work in education?
My career began in the nonprofit sector, serving and supporting nonprofit leaders as they pursued solutions to the problems their organizations existed to solve. I supported nonprofits working to solve all kinds of problems, from hunger to housing to environmental justice. I was (and am) really good at supporting leaders to examine their challenges, generate solutions, and create plans to implement those solutions. However, I often lamented that I didn’t have my own “mission” – I didn’t know the problem that I wanted to put all of my professional energy into solving.  It wasn’t until graduate school when I began an internship in the HR department of Pittsburgh Public Schools that I found a mission that fit my skill and passion. I learned then, and in my subsequent years at TNTP, that my skill in problem-solving and planning could make a huge difference in education, and specifically in the implementation of systems and practices to support the adults who were serving kids. I knew then (and know now) that I am not cut out to be a teacher. I do know, though, that I can make a difference for kids by making sure that the adults who teach them, lead their schools, and make decisions on their behalf have the skills, resources, knowledge and strategies to ensure that kids get the best.

What’s your favorite part of your job? 
I love working with clients to solve problems and make their jobs easier. I firmly believe that leaders in education have some of the hardest jobs in our society, and in the pandemic these jobs have become even harder. I get a lot of joy in meeting leaders where they are in their problem solving, and in supporting them to bring their ideas and solutions to life – whether it be as simple as a well-run meeting or as complex as an entirely new initiative. 

What’s the problem in education you most want to solve? 
I firmly believe that the quality of the adults serving kids in schools is the most important lever we can pull to make sure that all kids (and not just kids whose families have means) get the education they need and deserve to live a choice-filled life. I think ensuring that the best, smartest, most dedicated people are serving schools as teachers and leaders starts with both better support and resources for those who are already in teaching and leading positions, and with elevating the teaching profession so we can attract more of the “best and brightest”. This means we must develop and recognize teachers in the same way and with the same rigor that we do other professionals that we as a society tend to revere, and that we implement changes in systems like job design, development and compensation to make teaching and leading more attractive and sustainable. 

What’s a favorite book or quote? 
A quote I’ve loved since high school: “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” George Bernard Shaw

What do you like to do outside of work? 
My family and I have grown to love and deeply appreciate the outdoors. We make it a point to get into nature whenever we can for hiking, biking, kayaking, or boating on our beloved Lake Erie. We are avid tent campers, and are daydreaming of buying an RV to visit as many National Parks as we can. I also love to knit, and have found that the meditative nature of knitting brings me a much needed sense of calm in these crazy days. And I express affection through food and enjoy cooking for the people I love.

Webinar - Identifying Best Practices in Remote Instruction.pptx

Resources: Emerging Best Practices in Remote Instruction

In October 2020, Hendy’s Jeremy Abarno and Erica Murphy led a webinar on identifying emerging best practices in remote instruction. This interactive session included teachers and leaders from state departments of education, large and small school districts, charter management organizations and supporting organizations. The session focused on two key strategies for remote instruction – student engagement and differentiation. Through instructional videos and conversation, the presenters emphasized the interrelated nature of these two strategies. Differentiation leads to greater engagement and greater engagement allows for effective differentiation. This cycle is self-reinforcing and leads to better outcomes for students.

A recording of this webinar is available to you now. We’ve also compiled a list of strategies for remote engagement and differentiation. We hope these resources will help you continue to improve your practice of remote instruction. If there are additional engagement or differentiation strategies that have worked well for you, pleases let us know.

Hendy Webinar: Oct 14 & 15: Identifying Emerging Best Practices in Remote Instruction

Classrooms have gone virtual and teachers are quickly learning how to make the most of this new learning environment. Through their efforts, best practices are emerging that lead to both stronger student
engagement and deeper learning. 

Please join as we explore three key strategies for remote learning: effectively engaging students, and differentiating based on student needs. This interactive session is ideal for teacher coaches, school leaders,
and school leader managers.

Due to high demand this session will be held twice.

Please Join Us
Wednesday, October 14th or Thursday, October 15th
4:00 – 5:30pm EST

This session will be facilitated by Hendy Avenue Consulting’s Jeremy Abarno and Erica Murphy, both of whom have been teachers, school leaders, curriculum developers, teacher coaches and  leader coaches. You can expect a high energy, engaging session with clear takeaways and resources to implement in your schools immediately.

Save the Date! Part 2 of this session will be held on November 18th and 19th and will focus on effectively coaching teachers remotely.


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.


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 

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.


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)!


*From The Irreplaceables, TNTP, 2012.