Written By: Hans Appel
It’s been a little over 5 weeks since our staff sat huddled and crammed into my wife’s classroom watching a live press conference unveil our governor’s plan to shut down our schools. I’ve watched the equity and empathy gaps widen while seeing families struggle to manage both instantaneous poverty coupled with demands of homeschooling. I’ve witnessed a mad rush to put out crazy amounts of educational resources promising to be the fix that we all need.
In the time since, I’ve been peppered with questions from colleagues, PLN, and teammates on ideas to build school culture during this time of distance learning. Friends and family have sought my advice on navigating trauma, how to deal with elevated anxiety, and how to pass the time. Furthermore, companies have reached out to me to create relevant content to support educators best practice during this crisis.
Afterall, I’ve helped lead our school into an Award Winning Culture. I’m the Director of Culture for the Teach Better Team. I’m launching several exciting school culture projects this year; and, in about a month I’ll release my first book: Award Winning Culture: Building Intentionality and Action Through Character, Excellence, and Community. So, I’m supposed to have all the answers, RIGHT?! I’m supposed to be an ‘expert’ in all things culture and climate
But here’s the thing...this is my first global pandemic. I guess I’m not sure what I was expecting but it's definitely more isolating, frustrating, and confusing than I would have hoped. In truth, many people are struggling through real grief-like symptoms as we all navigate our way through to a new normal.
Anytime I feel lost, I make a concentrated effort to revisit my WHY:
I believe education, at its highest level, is about inspiring others to discover and develop their joy.
When reflecting on joy I’ve found it helpful to review our house rules:
Will You Do the Right Thing? (Character)
Will You Do Your Very Best? (Excellence)
What Will You Do For Others TODAY? (Community)
Character: Doing the right thing means modeling social distancing while practicing self care. I’m physically distancing myself from others while increasing family time, walks, cooking at home, and actively searching out moments of gratitude. I’m literally behaving the culture I’m trying to lead.
Excellence: Doing my best has fueled me to attack each day with the same intensity to inspire joy. Educating others now might feel foriegn to me but I’m learning that listening, empowering, and engaging people I serve is just as possible. In fact, the freedom of school beyond the four walls creates a learn on demand world for all of us. I’m taking this time to read some great books and blogs and listen to some new podcasts. I’ve also taken a few powerful PD courses.
Community: I’m supporting others by reaching out, connecting, and re-establishing relationships. I can’t believe it took a global tragedy to entice my family to connect with relatives thousands of miles away. With the power of video conferencing we can connect with anyone...anytime. Whether it’s postcards, e-mail, phone call, social media, this is the time to seek people out. I even joined Voxer recently (happel664).
I think school culture during social distancing has less to do with the big things. Instead, school culture is the intentional focus on asking and answering for myself and others those three critical questions each day. After 5 weeks of this new style of schooling, I’m MORE convinced than ever--school culture is the same as it always has been.
Award Winning Culture inspires a mindset of positive intentionality and action through Character, Excellence, and Community within your sphere of influence.
Need more inspiration to enhance your school culture efforts? Check out my picks for the top resources for working through COVID-19 this week:
Elisabeth Bostwick--Gratitude for Educators: Ideas on How We Can Uplift Others
Kris Felicello--The Covid Crisis: Through the Eyes of a NY Educator
George Couros--A Focus on Connection, Finding Positives, and Growth
Rae Hughart--5 Elements We Learned & We Can Not Forget: Remote & Physical Classrooms
Self-Care/Trauma Support Online PD:
Fostering Resilient Learning--COVID-19 Survival Course for Educators
The ZenTeacher--Self Care for Stressed out Teachers
Reaching the Whole Child:
Whole Child Summit by CharacterStrong
Powerful Podcast Episodes:
Brene Brown--Permission for Feel
Brian Mendler--Serenity Now
Most Supportive Teacher Facebook Group:
Teach Better Team--Private Facebook Group
Best New Books to Fuel Your Purpose:
Define Your Why: Own Your Story So You Can Live and Learn on Purpose by Barbara Bray
Live Your Excellence: Bring Your Best Self to School Everyday by Jimmy Casas
Most High Impact Educational Resources for Teachers:
Cult of a Pedagogy
Teach Better Team
Top Twitter Chat this Week:
#TLAP with Don Epps--Monday April 20th 9p.m (EST)
About the Author
Hans Appel has worked as a counselor in the Richland School District for the past 19 years and at Enterprise Middle School since it opened. He’s passionate about school culture, servant leadership, and kindness. In 2018, EMS was awarded the ASCD Whole Child Award for the State of Washington and the Global “Class Act Award” for creating a culture of excellence through kindness, service, and empathy. Additionally, the were selected as a finalist in the 2019 PBIS Film Festival and took top prize in the Community, Parents, and Staff category.
Award Winning Culture was created by Hans and Jennifer Appel with the sole purpose of creating an educational mindset of Positive INTENTIONALITY and ACTION; with a daily mantra to make our sphere of influence stronger through Character, Excellence, and Community. Part of AWC's mission is to highlight outstanding educators, companies, and resources that support an Award Winning Culture. Both Jennifer and Hans work at Enterprise Middle School aka Wildcat Nation. Wildcat Nation received the 2018 ASCD Whole Child Award in Washington, for its award winning culture and the 2018 Global "Class Act Award" for Kindness.