Community is More than People in a Room

Today’s contributor is Danielle Bryant, the community school facilitator at Widen Elementary School. Her role includes all things tech, professional learning, event planning, and social emotional learning. When she is not on campus she is working on her PhD in school improvement at Texas State!

On March 13, 2020 all that we once knew came to a screeching halt. Suddenly as Campus Innovation Connectors (CICs) our role as the “tech person on campus” became very prominent and we were solving problems left and right. We all built a plane while it was flying through a thunderstorm and have a lot to be proud of. If you haven’t recently, stop reading here and take a moment to remind yourself of how much there is to be proud of!!

Although the work done in the spring 2020 that many of us continued to perfect over the summer was urgent and important, as we returned to the school year in August I found myself actively working against my core value of community. I was spending all of my time troubleshooting tech issues and felt severely disconnected from my colleagues and campus community. I realized after a group chat with some co-workers that I needed to make a change because what I was doing had me on a fast track to burn out.

I made this shift in the scheduling I was doing for meetings with teachers and leading professional learning for staff. In my 1:1 meetings I started off by checking in with teachers and asking them what was going well rather than just jumping right into solving their immediate problems, by adding less than a few minutes to our meetings I was able to reconnect with teachers but they were also able to see the immense growth they had made since crisis-school in the spring. Additionally, I started setting up “Check in and Tech Out” hours every day for any staff to drop in and ask questions. Each day was different with some days having 1-2 teachers drop in to 9-10 teachers coming with questions and wanting to observe solutions! These sessions allowed me and the rest of the leadership team to see exactly what the teacher needs were and meet those needs in collaborative spaces. Although I was still doing the day-to-day tech solving, I felt less like a robot answering questions and more like myself!

Now that we are beginning an impromptu week of remote learning after the Fall Break, teachers are soaring independently and have learned SO MUCH! They are doing the incredible work of being flexible and maintaining high expectations while also fostering classroom communities, being able to return to this in a way we never imagined has been made possible with the reconnection to our values and an understanding that we can only do this with the help of each other.

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