Link Lines – May 2021 Issue

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Read Educator’s Lesson

By Shelley Littleton M.Ed., Kara McCulloch M.S., & Donni Perry M.Ed.

Administrator's Corner 3

Courageous School Leadership

By Cathy Buyrn, M.Ed.

The 2020-2021 school year has posed leadership challenges like no other school year. School leaders have had to courageously build multiple solutions to unique challenges and pivot quickly when circumstances changed. To support you in meeting these unprecedented challenges, Link Lines has published a number of relevant articles in the past year. For example, in the July and September issues, we addressed the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) and self-care heading into an unprecedented year.

Social and Emotional Learning Strategies for Administrators

Responsive School Restarting Considerations for Administrators

In the November and February editions of Link Lines, we pointed school leaders towards literacy and math practices for closing the skill gap that align with High Leverage Practices (HLPs). These academically focused practices will go a long way towards closing skill gaps that may have widened during the 2020-2021 school year.

Literacy Leadership at the IEP Meeting

Supervising High-Quality Math Instruction

In the spring edition of Link Lines, we wanted to hear from essential school workers who faced down this school year with amazing courage and creativity both in person and virtually. We asked them to share what they have learned this year and what ideas and strategies they are excited about keeping in their toolboxes for next year. View their inspiring Flip Grid videos in the educators’ lesson at the link above.

Moving into the summer and the 2021-2022 school year, school leaders will need to continue to keep SEL and self-care an important part of their weekly routines and set up structures for school staff members to do the same. The VDOE I’m Determined project offers a variety of tools that can be used by leaders, school staff, and students. The Good Day Plan and Goal Plan templates can help set the stage for SEL and self-care reflection and planning in order to ensure success at all levels.

Good Day Plan Template

Goal Plan Template

While SEL and self-care should stay at the top of the priority list heading into the new school year, school leaders also need to prepare themselves to engage in the courageous leadership behaviors defined by the Virginia Department of Education’s Ed Equity 5Cs (i.e., culturally responsive, courageous leadership, curriculum reframing, compassionate student and family engagement, continuous reflection) (VDOE, 2020).

Courageous Leadership Behaviors

  • Make inequities visible
  • Disrupt discourse, practices, and policies that perpetuate inequities
  • Encourage programs that support multi-lingual language and literacy development
  • Normalize conversations about race, racism, and inequity
  • Support people and building level administrators in efforts to address equity and racism
  • Promote diversity and cultivate responsibility for equity
  • Establish and communicate antiracism and equity policies to all stakeholders
  • Establish and communicate clear equity goals
  • Allocate resources to advance equity goals

(VDOE, 2020, p. 24)

In addition to the overall impacts of COVID-19 on society and schools, the past year has brought into focus issues of equity. Much of the discussion has been focused on race, culture, ethnicity, and economic disparities. Inequities across diverse groups of students can be compounded by disabilities and result in poor outcomes for too many students.

Courageous school leaders will have to help school staff let go of low expectations for these vulnerable students. They will also need to intentionally funnel resources into programs designed to compassionately engage marginalized groups of students (including students with disabilities) in order to close critical skill gaps and improve long-term outcomes for ALL students.

School leaders will be ahead of the game going into the 2021-2022 school year if they continue to make SEL and self-care a priority for all school community stakeholders and develop a plan for building the VDOE Ed Equity 5Cs into the fabric of their vision and mission to create inclusive and equitable school communities.

Additional Resources

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

Navigating EdEquityVA:  Virginia’s Road Map to Equity

Considerations for COVID Recovery Services for Students with Disabilities

Back to School Considerations:  Options for Ensuring FAPE (PEATC.Org)

9 Recommendations for Inclusive Learning Recovery for Students with Disabilities


Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) Office of Equity & Community Engagement. (2020). Navigating EdEquityVA:  Virginia’s road map to equity.

Link Lines – Summer Edition 2020

Promoting Social Emotional Learning and Equity with Classroom Routines and Procedures:  Part 1

Click here to read this issue for educators

Read the Administrator’s Corner below


Admin Corner - Sticky Note Option 1

Social and Emotional Learning Strategies for Administrators

By Cathy Buyrn, M.Ed.

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, resulting school closures and heightened calls to address racial inequities in our society, school administrators must be nimble and creative.  In responding to these critical challenges, they have had to navigate remote learning, staff needs, communication with families, food distribution, technology distribution, connectivity, considerations for summer programs, considerations for opening of schools in the fall, and important questions about equity.

Trauma has touched everyone who makes up the school community, and the lived experience of school administrators during this time has been unique (Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education [VDOE], 2020). In order to continue to be able to effectively navigate the challenges ahead, administrators must make it a priority to address their own self-care and social and emotional learning (SEL). Moving forward administrators will need to make time to decompress, reflect, and replenish their energy sources to sustain the unprecedented demands on their efforts.

  • Decompress
    • Take care of yourself and your family.
    • Spend time engaged in personal hobbies.
      • Reading for pleasure
      • Exercise
      • Arts & Crafts
      • Cooking
    • Find a support group of friends and/or colleagues.
  • Reflect
    • What has your experience been during the closure?
    • What do you think you did well and what do you hope to improve on?
    • What have you learned about yourself and your staff?
    • What have you learned about the school community?
    • How can you leverage what you have learned in planning for the future? (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL], 2020)
  • Replenish Energy Sources
    • Schedule time on your calendar for things that you find energizing about your work.
      • Reading to students
      • Staff community building
      • Relationship building with families
      • Celebrating success

Administrators who effectively address their own self-care and SEL will be in a much stronger position to help teachers and other staff do the same for themselves. Teachers have experienced their own challenges during this crisis, and they need a structure of support to re-engage in the teaching and learning process. They will need opportunities to connect, be heard, and heal in order to provide the same for their students (CASEL, 2020; VDOE, 2020). Administrators can model self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills (CASEL, 2020) to lay the groundwork for teachers to create inclusive, empathetic, and equitable learning environments when students return to school.

Administrators can find a robust collection of tools for organizing, implementing, and improving SEL in their school communities and high-quality equity building resources at Additional resources and tools may be found in the VDOE Recover, Redesign, Restart: A Comprehensive Plan That Moves Virginia Learners and Educators Forward document (2020, pp. 44-48).


Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. (2020). An initial guide to leveraging the power of social and emotional learning as you prepare to reopen and renew your school community.

Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Education. (2020). Recover, redesign, restart 2020: A comprehensive plan that moves Virginia learners and educators forward. Virginia Department of Education.


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