An AASA conference roundtable on resiliency on Thursday examined what collective educator agency looks like in action. The panel took on a conversational tone.
Lynn Kepp from AVID first asked Michael Lopes Serrao from Parkrose School District what building resiliency and agency across his school district looks like. He talked about the importance of aligning beliefs to actions and making sure that adults in school buildings felt seen and heard as human beings. “If we are going to promote student agency, we need to cultivate that kind of environment for adults,” Serrao said.
Adrienne Battle, superintendent of the Nashville Metro School District in Tennessee added that her district’s focus on small learning communities has been integral in their shift to this mindset. “We use AVID as our system approach,” she said. “We do things by design and by being intentional.”
Both Parkrose and Nashville have focused on connecting individual students with adults in their buildings as well as cultivating relationships among staff members.
“It is important to practice empathy and humility and to listen,” Serrao said. “It’s also important to build trust and to normalize and humanize conflict.” Serrao also mentioned that by doing this in Parkrose, his school district has not seen the same kind of recruitment and retention problems that have been present in many other school systems across the nation.
Throughout the presentation, it was also emphasized that AVID has helped these school leaders to put the right conditions in place to be strategic and equitable in their work for students. According to the panel, slowly building a strong foundation is more important than constantly asking, “what’s next?”
“For far too long in my school district, what you might experience on the northside of town might be different than what you experienced on the southside of town,” Battle said. “Our AVID framework has changed that and has given us consistency across the school district. Our students are showing up and we are investing more and more in advanced academic opportunities. And we are able to build upon that.”
AVID’s CEO, Thuan Nguyen, chimed in near the end of the discussion and talked about the importance of not taking problems on all at the same time, but rather in a more incremental approach.
“We can solve problems when we lean in and choose to,” Nguyen said.
(Natalie Allen is chief communications & community engagement officer in the Virginia Beach City Public Schools in Virginia.)