COVID-19 Cheatsheet for School Leaders
A one page website to help school leaders while schools are closed.

Hello

Since schools closed on March 12th, I’ve been creating content to help teachers and school leaders in terms of distance learning. There seems to be a huge amount of information out there so I thought I’d just pop up a one-page website divided into my 6 Rules for Distance Learning to let people know what I’m doing in my school and any tips that might be of use. I’ll also happily answer any questions.

Table of Contents

Over the last few weeks you’ve been bombarded with free offers from companies, lists of resources, and circular after circular from the Department of Education (and one from the FSSU for good measure!) As the school leader you have to move your school to an online entity, and you have to do it without being allowed in the school or without any established online platform to do it on. You have to ensure that you look after learning and the well-being of all your staff and pupils and their families. If some of the families don’t have Internet access, you have to organise worksheets to be delivered to them. You also have to organise food provision for many of your pupils. You were given less than 2 weeks since the schools were asked to close with 3 hours of notice. Every day you get new rules which often contradict previous rules.  Oh… and there’s a world pandemic going on too. 

*It’s Overwhelming* 

So take a breath before you do anything. You need to give yourself some space before you can lead. 

1. Take a Breath

2. Reassure Your School Community

  • Let staff members know how they can contact you and when you’re available to talk. 
  • Set up 2 WhatsApp Groups for your staff. One as a social/support group for everyone to post to and one as a Broadcast Only group so important messages can be related to staff without them being lost in the chatter.
  • Let staff know that the most important thing to know is that the biggest priority is health and well-being. Staff need to know this above anything else. A distant second priority is learning but, as teachers, it is what we do, so we need to do it. With that in mind, there needs to be a plan. This is our school’s plan. Feel free to copy whatever works for your school.
  • Have a couple of Virtual Staff meetings on Zoom or another video conferencing software to ensure that everyone is ok and everyone can input into the plan. (Schools can remove the 40 minute limit during the pandemic – click here to see how
  • What if there are staff not engaging with the school?
  • Email to every family through our School Administration System: Aladdin. (If you don’t have Aladdin, you could text or email)
  • We hosted a Virtual “Assembly” on Facebook Live initially and then we moved to Zoom as it was more private and we could interact better. The purpose of the assembly is to reassure families that we are thinking of them. We now host them every week as well as other online “connection” events such as:

3. Do NOTHING new. (Almost!)

What do you have?

As you’re moving online, you’re going to have to find ways to communicate & teach. Which of these can you already do?

Communication

Teach

Plan from what you have

Don’t be tempted to dive into using a new platform if it isn’t something you’re already using. Remember everyone is already overwhelmed. We don’t want to make things even more overwhelming.

Ensure that there is agreement from staff that this is all that is expected from them and they shouldn’t be panicking if they hear of other teachers doing all sorts of magical stuff online. Everyone’s main job is keeping everyone safe and healthy. Let’s make sure that’s the number one priority and, if this goes on for longer, we can always learn new skills together over time.

4. Embrace Video

I know I said do nothing new but using video was a game changer for me in school. It’s the only new thing I’d recommend for schools to embrace. While it doesn’t replace a face-to-face scenario, it is the next best thing. While there are a number of platforms available, we’re mostly using Zoom because we find it easy, stable, and once you change a few settings, so far, we’ve found it secure. Here are some tips I’ve been sent by different school leaders and teachers.

5. Tell people what's happening - 5 Qs

Once you have all the plans in place, it’s time to let the community know what’s happening. In our school, these are the 5 questions we answered.

When

When

will you be uploading the lessons? The evening before? Weekly on a Sunday?

What

What

platform are you using? Is it Google Classroom or is it email, etc.

Who

Who

are the staff that parents will be communicating with? It won't just be the class teacher. Include SNAs, SETs, etc.

How

How

will families contact you? Do you have a special email address set up? Make sure to tell them when you check it.

Why

Why

Because we're teachers. It's what we do.

6. All of this is Out of our Control

On the evening of the Easter/Spring Break, the Department of Education released a survey to parents asking how schools were engaging with them since we were forced to close with 3 hours of notice. How many school days ago was this? 14 School Days. In the equivalent of a fortnight, school leaders and teachers have had to move from being a face-to-face entity to learning and becoming a completely online entity. It is amazing what we’ve already achieved. It is worth also remembering that on an almost daily basis, the way we’ve been able to live has changed with new laws and new research being released. And we already know the worst has yet to come. Staff are going to become ill. Families in your school will become ill. Sadly, some will be in critical conditions. Many schools will have a critical incident for the first time. So, remember, this is, at the end of the day, completely out of our control. All we can do is our best. I hope this helps.

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