As one of sixteen Regional Educational Service Agencies across the state of Georgia, North Georgia RESA just like all other agencies and businesses, has experienced some challenges over the past couple of months. As a group of educators whose work is to support five school districts primarily through face-to-face professional learning, we have had to step back and rethink how best to serve them. Executing our regular routines has always been relatively easy, but now it seems that we are all in a whole new world. Thankfully, today most folks are somewhat technology literate, but with us being forced to go “all in" virtually has been a bit of a challenge. However, we're just like everyone else, doing our best to make the transition--and quickly. There are three specific things that we have learned while adjusting to this unique experience.
#1. We must all be open to change.
Are we all comfortable with this change? Not immediately, but as our school districts have halted classes and/or the school year and made many other alterations to their work, we must also adjust to the ending of face-to-face meetings for now. And even though this has been a different experience, we realize that thankfully we are well equipped technologically for a virtual presence. Having a very knowledgeable technology director who has planned ahead and provided new technology for us has helped tremendously. Specifically, creating virtual meetings for consultants, creating studio space for virtual PL and creating new tabs on our website for content-related resources has helped ease the transition. Each team member has realized rather quickly that we must be willing and open to change, but for us, that has not been too huge of a hurdle to overcome.
#2. Working as a supportive team is more critical now than ever.
Our staff worked together very well prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now more than ever we rely on one another for support. During our virtual staff meetings everyone continues to share any information that would be helpful for the whole group. One may ask, “Is it not more difficult to communicate with your colleagues?” To be honest, most of our team misses the face-to-face interaction with other team members, but through emails, text messages and virtual meetings we have remained in relatively close contact. Our team has the “we are all in this together” mentality and would provide any support needed for another team member.
#3. Many of us still have much work to do in the area of virtual learning.
Let’s face it, most of us in our agency have been educators for twenty plus years, so we are not exactly “down” with all the latest technology. However, that also probably goes for many folks working in our school districts as well. Nonetheless, with an eagerness to provide help and assistance to our districts, we are pledged to learn all that we can about new technology platforms and tools.
One way that we are doing just that is through the recent work of our technology director to set up an in-house studio where live professional learning can take place. Our virtual studio will allow us to continue to provide PL sessions for our member districts and their personnel. We conduct numerous workshops throughout the school year and this will allow us and any guest presenters to conduct PL as they normally would, only virtually. Our organization thrives on providing support for all content areas and those in leadership positions. We also have GaDOE consultants present workshops for our districts and we will be able to continue this practice virtually. For those who conduct PL in any capacity, having a studio in house will certainly help with delivery of information, particularly with our own consultants. And this space should take shape within the next few weeks.
We are looking forward to having the capability to stream live PL from our location but realize that this too will be a work in progress for each one of us. I’m confident all the hard work will pay off, as we will soon be able to support more educators in and out of our RESA district. We talk about concepts like blended learning for students, well, now it is time to do the same for our adult learners. We must provide them with all the support they need so that they can in turn support their students.
All of us at NGRESA realize that there is still much work for us to do to get better in sync with our districts. By mid-March of each year, we send out an annual needs-assessment to our school districts electronically. However, as one might have guessed, we have held off on distributing it, but it will go out very soon. Even though we would like to have already received district feedback about PL for our next academic year, it is a good thing that we have waited. By now districts have had more time to gauge digital needs and create improvement targets for next year. Hopefully, we will all learn to work more cohesively and better support teaching and learning in our schools and classrooms, especially through the vehicle of virtual learning.
Educators, how are you adjusting to this new reality?
Feel free to share how you are adjusting and helping to support students and teachers from afar in our comments section.