Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), Mental Health, Suicide Prevention, Trauma-Informed Teaching 06.03.2020

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Flexibility is the Key: Elementary School Principal is Stepping Up for Students

Continuing our series showcasing the voices of educators who are leading the charge in addressing student mental health and providing much-needed support for their students, elementary school principal Dr. Sharon Porter chats with us about how her school has stepped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Sharon Porter

Tell us more about your role and your school.

I am an elementary school principal in a large urban school district in the Washington DC metropolitan area.

What is your current situation like? How are you interacting with students at this time?

Our school district is currently participating in distance learning. Schools across our district issued Google Chromebooks for students in need of a device. Teachers are providing live instruction as well as recorded lessons for students. Teachers have also established office hours to assist students and parents with questions. I am notified when my teachers are “going live” with their students and each time I am available, I jump in to have an opportunity to see and interact with them.

I also record updated messages for the school community as we receive updates from the state, local, and school district officials.

How is your school stepping up for students at this time? Do you feel that your role has shifted?

My school districts provide meal distribution sites that include, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our Professional School Counselor as well as our Pupil Personnel Worker continue to provide information regarding community food giveaways as well as masks and toiletry items. We have even provided personal assistance to some families that expressed a need. Some families do not have transportation to get to the meal sites or parents are ill and cannot travel to the meal sites. Our English for Speaker of Other Languages (ESOL) teacher has also been instrumental in ensuring our English Language Learners’ needs are being met during these unprecedented times.

What is a success or milestone that you feel like you’ve hit since schools have been closed?

I have actually had time to really sit and reflect. I am a reflective learner and I don’t always have the time to truly reflect. This time at home has given me an opportunity to think through so many ideas. It also has allowed me to put things in perspective.

What remains a challenge when it comes to meeting the needs of your students?

Definitely meeting all the non-academic needs of students. Students who we’ve not had any communication since leaving the school building makes me uneasy. There is a concerted effort from the school district to gain clarity on their well-being. Again, the school counselor, pupil personnel worker, and ESOL teacher have played an important role in identifying what may be causing the inactivity.

What are some tips you’d give to someone in your position who is looking for ways to further support students?

Be innovative and creative. There are so many great stories out there where educators are going over and beyond their duty to help students and parents get through this difficult time.

I would also say flexibility is the key. This is not the time to be rigid. If ever there was a time to say we must “Maslow before Bloom,” this is it.

What do you most look forward to when you’re back at school?

I look forward to putting my ideas and new knowledge to use. I have participated in a number of educational webinars since we have been teleworking. Leaders must “know the way, go the way, and show the way.” It’s the latter I look forward to.

I also look forward to the sharing of new ideas with my staff and aiming to always improve. My theme for this year is “Strive for 5.” A 5-Star ANYTHING…is top-notch. That’s my goal.


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