In the Accelerate Framework, the Aspirational Environment is the door to the school and creates the foundation that students need to be able to learn and grow. Our leaders entered this crisis through the door of Aspirational Environment.
As it turns out, creating an Aspirational Environment becomes even more important in a virtual school because you lose the face-to-face touch points, the informal relationship building moments, and the little stories teachers and students share with each other that fortifies there trusting relationships.
Additionally, for many of the students in the communities that our leaders serve, the basic physiological and safety needs from Maslow’s Hierarchy such as the school food program, a stable daily schedule, and heated buildings are lost when students are no longer coming to the building every day. And suddenly, forging even deeper parent partnerships becomes essential, not a “nice to have” for those that opt in but a must have if learning is going to continue in their homes.
Accelerate Institute leaders were faced with new and immediate challenges:
- How do you ensure the basic needs of all students are met?
- How do you address social and emotional support and school spirit to create a feeling of belonging?
- How do you continue a healthy community culture through a computer screen?
Along with the Aspirational Environment, its partner Constructive Environment is equally necessary for getting students ready to learn. How do you create some structures and norms that allow for student productivity in the new learning environment?
Here’s how leaders have found new ways to foster an Aspirational and Constructive Environment:
For the first two weeks Dave Trejo (Environmental Charter Middle School-Gardena, Los Angeles) focused on three things: parent communication using the Talking Points app, trauma response, and teacher tracking of attendance. Parents have been very grateful for the consistent communication. He noticed that students that previously had behavior issues in a traditional classroom were producing consistent, quality work during their remote learning time.
Javier Hernandez (Voices – Stockton, CA) was able to be a leader in his network in ensuring the basic needs of students were met first, before launching into rigorous e-learning plans. With the urgency that educators feel to deliver high-quality instruction consistently, reminders are needed that students cannot learn if their basic needs are not met. Javier continued to press for this and his network leadership responded, working relentlessly to meet the basic needs of all students before moving to Phase 2.
Katie Kirley and Duane Krambeck (Steel City Academy, Indiana) are living the philosophy of the school as a community, sending out daily morning messages to staff, students, and parents. Students remain engaged through daily class morning meetings and weekly classroom competitions. The school is able to provide meals, tech devices, and internet to all families through various grants and partnerships that Katie and Duane have worked to secure.
To support the social and emotional needs of students during this time of uncertainty, Kash Wilson (Noble Hansberry College Prep High, Chicago) is giving teachers access to the school social worker, who is providing support through Google Classroom. This benefits the students, parents and teachers who are all coping with the impact of uncertainty.
Jackson Sprayberry (Valor College Prep, Nashville) is continuing his strong SEL support program by having weekly Valor circles between mentor and mentee groups to make sure that students’ emotional needs are still being met in addition to their academic needs.
Andi Hernandez (Watsonville Prep, California) and the Navigator family of schools have been obtaining and distributing hotspots to all families without Wi-Fi so that all students can continue to use their school-provided tablets.
Kawika Chun (Equitas Academy #5, Los Angeles) and the Equitas family of schools have been serving 35,000 meals each week to the Pico Union community, deployed 1500 Chromebooks to scholars and purchased 270 Wi-Fi hotspots for families without internet access. They have also provided families with a toolkit that contains guidance for self-care, distance learning, and links to additional community resources.