By Michael Piccirillo, Ed.D, CASDA Executive Director
I hope you and your loved ones are physically and emotionally healthy. These are unique times to say the least and I want to assure you CASDA is here to provide support in any way we can!
In times of personal and professional challenge I have often turned to a quote shared with me many years ago that helps to reset my thinking and focus on what I can do rather than what I can’t: “We are all faced with a series of opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations” (C. Swindoll).
As you know, CASDA’s work with school districts is built around interacting with educators in person through direct classroom support, workshops and roundtables. Like you, we were caught off guard by the speed of change caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and suddenly we were faced with the question of how we could be relevant and supportive of educators throughout the region.
So, we are envisioning our work differently, retooling our mode of delivery and refocusing our efforts to support your current needs. Speaking of your needs, what we have heard loudly and clearly is you need a space for community, to share your struggles and successes; a place to help each other through this seemingly impossible situation. Our first step in supporting you was our free Zoom webinar this past Tuesday on Maintaining Self Care and Community During the COVID-19 Crisis. We believe to be of service to your students and family, you must first take care of yourself. There is a reason during the safety instructions on airplanes flight attendants say, “In the unlikely event of an emergency and loss of cabin pressure place the oxygen mask over your nose and mouth before tending to the needs of a child.” The first and best thing you can do is take care of your physical and emotional well-being, so you can be at your best for your students and family.
In the coming days and weeks CASDA will be offering another Zoom webinars like Designing Distance Learning to Support ELLs, which will take place Tuesday, March 31, from 4-5 p.m. for free. We are also offering a free webinar titled Instructional Design Principles for Remote Learning on Thursday, April 2, which will have an opportunity for follow-up coaching sessions. Additionally, our experts in instructional technology will assist you with specific questions around synchronous and asynchronous instruction through one-to-one or small group coaching sessions. Building off our successful history with leadership coaching, CASDA is also looking to develop virtual coaching/mentoring opportunities for building and district leaders. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to visit the UAlbany School of Education’s Remote Education Resource Center website for information and tools to help you teach remotely.
Those of you who know me personally, have read prior CASDA newsletters, or listened to some of my podcasts understand that I place a great deal of emphasis on self-reflection. Never in my wildest dreams could I have envisioned the day-to-day reality we are all experiencing. The View From Here for me has always been an opportunity to share experiences, life lessons and broader ideas to put the work of educating young people into a perspective. My view changed when the doctoral class I teach went fully online a few days before it was scheduled to occur. Being a “digital immigrant,” I had to rely on the advice and assistance of colleagues, my own effort to present a synchronous lesson and the understanding of my students. So, the lesson wasn’t perfect and some of the plan didn’t work as well in the virtual environment as it would have in-person. However, I am now planning for the next class to be a balance of synchronous and asynchronous activities. For help with some of your instructional needs, I am providing a link to a research brief, Best Practices in K-12 Online and Hybrid Courses, provided by one of CASDA’s corporate sponsors, Hanover Research. Principles of Effective Online Instruction is a section I am reviewing closely to develop my instructional skills.
I am learning to communicate through a variety of virtual platforms even though it is impeding my natural tendency to get a point across through arms and hands flailing (Italian Heritage). A new normal is establishing itself and I am going to take this opportunity to shape it rather than be shaped by it.
I know we will all get through these seemingly impossible situations; we must for the students and families we serve and each other. CASDA has been and will continue to be of service to the educators of the Capital Region. Be well!