Partner Voices: Aldine ISD Principal Aisley Adams
Our partners in school systems across the country are sharing their experiences of the challenges and successes of teaching, learning, and leading in the time of COVID-19.
Principal Aisley Adams spoke to Mia Dunlap, Director of Instructional Support at Instruction Partners, about her leadership priorities and the importance of creating clarity and purpose for her team. Ms. Adams is the principal of Nimitz Ninth Grade School in Aldine Independent School District, located in Houston, Texas.
This conversation took place on April 23, 2020. Watch the full conversation or read the abridged Q&A below.
MD: What has been your top priority this week?
AA: Our top priority this week has been clarity—clarity around roles, clarity around expectations, just clarity in general. In the virtual world, you have a lot of noise going on. Our saying now is “How can we maximize clarity to minimize confusion?” That is our number one goal for the last week, and it’s going to be our goal for next week. Not just for my leadership team, but for our teachers who are leaders in the virtual classroom.
MD: What are you learning about teacher needs?
AA: Self care is something that I preach about every day. And I am realizing more that, as a leader, I can’t just preach about it, I have to model it for them. I think right now they need time to decompress, unpack the information they are receiving on a daily basis, and time to unpack their own feelings. When you’re a teacher you automatically, innately take on the problems of your kids and your colleagues, and so I am providing those opportunities to them to decompress, and vent, and problem solve with them. Their biggest need right now is that they miss their kids and they want to see how we can still motivate, encourage, inspire, and make those emotional connections with them without being able to see them. We may not physically be there, but school is still happening. And relationships can still be built with your teachers.
MD: What resources have supported you from Instruction Partners?
I don’t know if I could have functioned as a school leader in this time without the resources that have been provided in the leadership toolkit. That has really helped us gain clarity and focus around: “Okay, we’re in a virtual school, how do we maximize people and how do we get kids engaged in a virtual setting?” and it’s a complete paradigm shift. Of course I’m thinking, how are we going to make all of this work? Because I’ve never been in a virtual school. And I know working on a Master’s virtually was hard. So I can only imagine how this is for kids. So the leadership toolkit is really my go-to right now.
We just finished in our instructional leadership team meeting on Aspirations for Student Learning and Culture. Just really taking a dive into: Where are we in the phases, how do we move from phase 1 to phase 2? And we looked at Roles and Responsibilities because in the virtual world, they are different now than what we were doing in the building. And, my math department has taken advantage of the Grab and Go for ideas and activities.
So, the resources have been really powerful with communicating with my team and giving them a visual of where we are, where we need to go, and how to get there.
MD: What has been the impact of using those resources and tools?
AA: Minimizing confusion and an increase in clarity. It’s allowed us to redefine our thinking about who is responsible for what and what do we need right now.
We took the Aspirations for Student Learning, and I made them into a survey for my instructional leadership team. And that resulted in those members making it a survey for their teachers. So, it’s a cycle of feedback and problem solving.
What I’ve enjoyed most about the resources is they are pushing us outside of our comfort zone to think about: How can we make the virtual school setting just as engaging and inspiring and organized and meaningful for kids?
MD: What do you feel most proud of right now?
AA: My leadership team and my teachers. They have taken this in stride. And I have seen some really great outcomes as far as teaching and learning goes, and reaching out to students. This has allowed us to spend time building relationship skills and leveraging that to move the work along. I am proud of my teachers who are leaders, assistant principals, and counselors. Everyone is in the work and I feel like we are locked arm in arm right now. And I hope to keep that momentum going.
MD: Do you have any advice for school leaders who are where you were 4-5 weeks ago?
AA: Take one step at a time. Definitely use the COVID-19 Resource Hub that Instruction Partners has because it has provided so much clarity and direction for us. Really redefine what leadership looks like during this time by being authentic about your leadership and prioritizing the relationships with the teachers and staff that are getting this work done. The biggest thing that is helping us is just being transparent—Saying what we mean, meaning what we say, and modeling what we say. Sometimes we have to deliver news that is not exciting and not what people want to hear, but people want truth more than anything and sometimes truth is not comfortable but it is what we have to give. So be transparent and be an authentic leader during this time, because COVID will really reveal your flaws as a leader, but I think it’s been a beautiful thing because now you know what you need to work on.
Prioritize your people. Without them, none of this matters. It’s all for nothing if we’re not valuing them, their space, and their time.