Summer is the time of year spent soaking up as much vitamin D as possible, reflecting on the last year, creating goals for the upcoming year, and for some people, me included, it’s a time to transition to a new role.

As introduced in the last Progress Report, I am Jenna Moller, the new Professional Learning Coordinator for the Kane County Regional Office of Education. I am a former high school English teacher and K-12 instructional coach with a passion for reading, learning, growing, reflecting, and advocating for students and educators. I am currently finishing up year two of my doctoral program at Aurora University in curriculum and instruction. I will start my dissertation in August focused on the structures of successful instructional coaching programs. I am excited to connect with and serve the incredible educators of Kane County! 

As I reflect on the last three months of remote learning, our current political and social climate, and the uncertainty of the upcoming school year, I am reminded of the power of human connection and the importance of teaching and building empathy in our society, which starts with us and our classrooms. 

Brené Brown has taught us that humans are hardwired for connection, and in the various crises we are experiencing, we need to feel connected now more than ever

As we think through possible alternative and blended scheduling for the upcoming year, I always come back to the connection component especially considering relationships were 7 months into the making when we transitioned to remote learning in March. This fall, we will meet and interact with students (and new staff!) for the first time. How will we ensure students feel connected to their peers, their teachers, their learning, and their school regardless of the format? 

Here are some ideas to build connections with students to use in both a virtual and non-virtual environment synthesized from Panorama Education, PBS, and Edutopia:

Introductions. Have students and teachers create video biographies (flipgrid!) or an “about me” poster to introduce themselves! Even as we think through new staff orientation, we can add this component for staff to learn more about each other. 

Temperature Checks. Conduct daily check-ins with students either through a quick write, a whip-around, or a google form

Question of the Day. Start each class with a question of the day (a mix of low-stakes would-you-rather questions, openers for learning, and questions to create a positive learning environment). 

Host a morning meeting. Start each day/class period with a class meeting to build connections among students. 

Newsletter. Send home a weekly or monthly newsletter, where you include a student to showcase. Consider including a section where students can write shoutouts to their peers! 

Spirit weeks. Have spirit weeks where students can dress up for school and/or virtual gatherings. Check out some examples here.

What are some ways you can ensure new staff, returning staff, new students, and returning students feel connected to their peers, their learning, and their school this upcoming year?

I  look forward to connecting with and learning from you this year!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning
(t): 630-444-3044
(c): 630-675-4447

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