Are you familiar with the “Pause Before You Post” movement to remind students to carefully consider the consequences of posting something online? Whether they are posting something private about themselves or something hurtful about someone else, the costs can be steep. 

I’m reminded of that message, as I field calls and emails from building and district leaders who are in a panic to complete their Continuity of Learning and COVID-19 Response Plan. I get it… we are problem solvers, doers, and caretakers.  We have both an internal voice and external pressure to do something. Yes, ISD’s and PSA authorizers will be ready to accept plans beginning April 8, but that is not a reason to rush into anything that impacts each and every stakeholder within one’s district and community. So let’s push pause for a moment to make sure our words and actions don’t have the unintended consequence of doing harm to students, families and educators. 

Anthony Ambrose in 1987 created a model regarding managing complex change.  This model framework was designed to assist learners in planning, as well as diagnosing what might be needed when plans go awry.  He noted five elements of successful change: vision, skills, incentives, resources and action plans. He noted.

  • A lack of vision leads to confusion. 
  • A lack of skill leads to anxiety.  
  • A lack of incentive (value) leads to resistance.  
  • A lack of resources leaves people frustrated. 
  • A lack of an agreed upon action plan results in false starts.

As you work to develop and implement a remote learning plan in response to Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order (No. 2020-35), we call upon everyone to pause before you submit. Work though each of these five elements to ensure we do no harm.  In the words of Michael Fisher and Allison Zmuda, we need to turn down the volume, take our foot off the gas and focus on being a filter rather than a dump truck.

In the next week, it’d be wise to engage in the following next steps: 

  • Continue to implement the initial response that was implemented prior to EO 2020-35, whether that be providing meals, tending to wellness, homework packets, enrichment/supplemental learning, fully online or a hybrid.  Continue what you started until a new plan is fully developed, submitted, approved and communicated.
  • Engage in outreach with students, parents and educators to continue to nurture relationships, maintain connections and ensure they are safe and valued.
  • Conduct a needs assessment: Send out survey via snail mail, email/message, phone call, social media, and district website requesting each family and educator to communicate what they might need or appreciate from the district, what type of devices are available in the home, quantity of devices, cellular signal and broadband access within the home, whether or not they have transportation to pick up packets from school or access internet on school site, any basic needs that need to be addressed, as well as any circumstances that might impact the students ability to engage in remote learning.  Solicit responses by the end of the week. 
  • Call students and families that do not respond to the inquiry to assess their needs.
  • Convene general and special educators, technology and accessibility specialists, and building leaders to:

Once you’ve completed these initial steps,  frame the vision, develop the skills, create the incentive, provide the resources and write, submit and communicate a coordinated and systematic plan. Once approved, then implement the plan, monitor and adjust, seek feedback from stakeholders, and celebrate the successful change and positive impact on learning.

Written by Colin Ripmaster, MASSP Associate Executive Director