EP: 11 – How Educational Leaders are Managing Through Crisis

Grandfather Sitting In Chair With Grandson Watching Movie On Digital Tablet Together
“This is an opportunity for leaders to lead better.”
Cindy Hunt (07:35-07:42)

Are you curious about what's the impact of COVID-19 to the educational leaders and how they're coping with this pandemic? In this week's episode, Pam Baker and Cindy Hunt welcome their special guests John Kelly and Timm Kelly, as they talk about how educational leaders are managing through the crisis.

John Kelly is in his 28th year as an educator and is currently serving as the Principal of Cobb Horizon High School, and Academic Alternative High School in the Cobb County School District just north of Atlanta, Ga.  In its second year, Cobb Horizon has doubled their initial enrollment and by the end of this school year will graduate over 200 at-risk students. 

Prior to being named the founding Principal at Cobb Horizon, Mr. Kelly served as a high school principal, Assistant Principal, Athletic Director, and Physical Science/Chemistry teacher. Originally from Memphis, Michigan, John earned his Bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University, and Masters and Specialist Degrees in Educational leadership from Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama.

Part One of ‘How Educational Leaders are Managing Through Crisis’

Kelly’s school utilizes a blended learning environment. Even before this pandemic, their kids are used to working online to a certain extent since they need an alternative path to receive their high school diploma. But even when teachers are used to the students doing seventy percent of the curriculum online, they are dealing with lots of other changes, whether because they’re at home or getting access to services. Basically, navigating this successfully boils down to relationships, whether you're in a regular school or an online school or working at home.

John Kelly talks about his team’s approach to keeping that good working relationship with the entire team central to everything they do. They put a schedule together so every staff member – administrators, assistant principals, and teachers - is contacted. And those phone calls are not about the curriculum, not about the teaching or not about what's going on. It's about, how are you? Are you OK? Is the family OK? Or if they need anything. This quarantine period teaches the schools to adapt to the new changes and reevaluate. It allows us to take care of each other and take time to get to know each other at another level.

“It’s incumbent on us as educators to make sure that every student has a chance to be successful.” (29:22-29:27)

Thinking about all the people that are in contact with their students, the bus drivers, and the custodians who are working really hard to keep everybody safe. When we think about how this is impacting everyone, we can definitely come out of this as a better team. How people handle a crisis is a lot different than when they're in their classroom on a daily basis. And once the traditional school is back, educators are going to lead differently. Once the dust settles, what will be the significant changes? What are the big differences in terms of how educators are leading now versus how they were leading a month ago? The truth is, every one of us is learning to do things differently, whatever our job is. Slow down and pay attention to what you need to pay attention to. Get people in a place where they can communicate what they need to be successful in this new world.

Part Two of ‘How Educational Leaders are Managing Through Crisis’

People are trying to figure out, what if the school doesn't open again this year? How are we going to continue to move these kids, not just academically, but socially and emotionally? How are we going to do that remotely? There's an opportunity to look at educating children differently. And that should be happening every year.

Meeting people's psychological needs first before any intellectual activity is crucial when you're leading. And in order to do that, you have to understand who they are, how they're wired, what their needs are, what their preferences are, what their communication style is, what their interactions and all of those things to know how to lead individuals, take more people on your team, and have them work together and understand each other.

“The magic is invaluable at times like now. The magic of understanding who folks are, what their needs are, how to support them and motivate them to bring their best.” 
- Pam Baker (36:32-36:36)

There's got to be that balance, whether you're in education or the corporate world. And leaders need to show they care about their people. Kids out there come from every walk of life. That's why schools, students and teachers all win when their teachers are focused first on building relationships with kids. So, there's a lot to be learned across the education industry.

At a time like this, it's the relationship that's going to carry us forward. Let’s all get back to the heart of why people go into education, why people care about kids and their staff. The magic is invaluable at times like now. The magic of understanding who folks are, what their needs are, how to support them, and motivate them to bring their best.

How to Get Involved:

Are you tired of being misunderstood or not heard? If so, we have a FREE guide for you.

What you'll discover in this guide:

  • How to Charge Your Batteries (it’s not just for phones)
  • Discerning Someone’s Preferred Language (no foreign language training required)
  • Listening for Their Perception (yep – we each have our own)
  • Battery Charging Others (after all, teamwork makes the dream work)
  • Get Your Message Across to a Group (all communication “channels” matter)

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