Movement when Motion Is Hard

We’re in a situation where staff are overwhelmed. Teachers are feeling under water all the time, trying to make materials to support online learning. I’m in the position to provide those supports, but we’re looking for two different things.

Money solves problems, but we can’t buy a thing to get out of this. There is no app. There is no platform. There is no "if we just…" solution.

The things that will improve online teaching are changes in practice. Pedagogy needs to be adjusted. How we present, assess, and follow up on information needs to be adjusted. Some of these things are small tweaks (ie, recording simple videos) and others require deeper discussion, reflection, and processing.

It Sort of Worked…

In the spring, we were "all in this together." We focused on making the best of a bad situation. We made sure there was a significant allotment of time each week for development, discussion, and support at the department, school, and district levels. Development was prioritized and we made huge gains.

Consistency, predictability, and availability were all critical components of making sure we made it through the semester. At the start, all of our hopes were high that the fall would bring some resolution.

As the semester went on, it became more obvious that an online fall semester was going to be likely. Instead of carrying the support system forward, we reduced the time available for staff to receive help or discuss strategy in small groups.


Losing dedicated support time has left us in a rut. This is long term, like it or not. Instead of making progress, I feel like we’re spinning wheels and flinging mud to try and get some traction. Evidence shows that PLC-based support, marrying tech, practice, and content, provides significant benefit to staff development which isn’t surprising. We had a modicum of that in the spring when we focused on department growth around specific goals.

Since losing focus, reaching staff at any level has become even more challenging. There’s no simple solution and the options I’m trying to provide aren’t winning any converts.

Baby Steps

I work with a great partner who has brought some great ideas. Some things that seem to gain a little bit more traction seem to be:

  • Themed activity collections. Resources for special events, lately. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Day and Inauguration Day packs have helped provide staff with ready-to-use materials that promote good online instruction.
  • On-demand PD. We’ve started creating 20-30 minute YouTube PD videos which dive into instructional best practice in our LMS or using other district tools. They’re interactive in the live chat during the stream, but are archived for later if people can’t carve out the time to watch live.
  • Social media presence. I’m not a facebook person, but it’s where our teachers are. She’s taken steps to be more proactive about getting materials in front of people where they are.

We can’t force engagement. I cannot mandate growth. But we do need to help drive a desire to improve now. We’re online and probably will be for some time. Moving out of emergency mode isn’t an option. Hopefully we can get things moving in a direction where, despite fatigue, we can get people to engage and move with us.

_Hiking by Franck Michel is licensed under CC BY_

This Site is Under Construction

Last month, my family broke ground on a new house.

An excavator working on a construction site
Step 1: Dig a really big hole.

Less than a year ago, we were just toying with the idea of building a house, and now we’re actually in the process of building. It’s surreal to think back on the original discussion and consider where we’ve come in this process already.

My wife and I standing in front of our hold house on our last night there.
We moved out of this place after seven years.

I work hard to make sure my summers are as tech-free as possible. All of my email is archived automatically and a nice vacation responder tells people to write me again on a given date. I’m focusing all of my energy this year on contracting and building the house with my brothers-in-law as well as assorded friends and other family.

Concrete trucks pouring a new foundation.
Click through for the full-size picture because it’s bonkers.

Most of the work so far has been through hired concrete contractors, but this week lumber started going in, which is a huge burden both on and off my shoulders. Waiting for construction to start was hard, but now that we’re moving, it’s really refreshing and empowering to be able to do this project with my own hands.

Framed basement walls in a new house.
Framing is extrememly satisfying to do because everything happens so fast.

I’m trying to remember to document the project. When you’re in the middle of it, it feels trite to stop working to take a picture. But, it’s not every day you get to build a new house yourself. As of tonight, the first floor is ready for the subfloor and we’re getting ready to start framing exterior walls. We’re also going to order all of our windows as well as the second floor trusses.

If you want to follow along, I have a photo gallery going for all construction-related pictures I take. (Feel free to browse other non-construction related photos.) And if you’re so inclined, there’s now an RSS feed you can subscribe to because RSS is alive and well.