Summer Pathways Culminating Collaboration

The story is, who you brought with you in spirit…

Nearly one hundred members of #VaLIN Cohort 2 signed up to participate in the July 23rd Summer Pathways Culminating Collaboration.  But the story is more than the fact that, with everything educators have going on right now, people came together in service of purposeful learning, equity, and engagement and connection.

The story is, who you brought with you in spirit…

    • Jane Geyer: Gifted senior, mature, from a single parent family with parent always working, not enough money to make ends meet, has support and skills but lacks resources. Sometimes our GT kids are glossed over as we focus on those below grade level.
    • Josh Bearman: I am focused currently on the student in one of Richmond’s housing projects. Living in a multigenerational household with multiple younger siblings. I am wondering how this child will be able to find the wherewithal to find a safe and non-chaotic space to receive learning.
    • Gena Keller: The parent learner – the parent who is juggling the management of a home / being present for their children / present for their job / moving into a role of teacher helper/facilitator/caretaker/….
    • Pamela Moran: The VaLIN steering team really appreciates and values your time today – we have never been in a period of time that demands our best creative and innovative thinking to find solutions to the problems we face in starting the 20-21 school year. I saw a story recently about schooling in the 1918 Pandemic and think I bet those educators would have some wisdom to share with us if they were still around
    • Annie Whitaker: I am thinking about my daughter who will be a senior next year. She is struggling with missing her classmates and marching band. She is worried about college and disappointed she can’t visit campus to see what the different schools will look like. She wonders what impact this will have on her future. Will she even be able to take a SAT, will universities require it.
    • Daniel Smith: I have heard from many folks who are feeling very anxious about the upcoming school year.  They are unsure what to expect and how it will be different. Today, a high school junior is on my mind.  Average student without any identified disability.  Last weekend, he melted down from the anxiety of what school will be.  The school that he has always known will be no longer and it terrified him.
    • Mary Boardwine: Third grader, limited at home support, wants to strengthen all skills but struggles with basic learning goals.  Also, needs convenience socially.
    • Susan Pereira: I am thinking of a non English speaker, with two working parents.  She is too young to navigate the computer alone, and I worry we will lose her.  We had so very little contact in the spring, and I just hope the family can hang in there with us.
    • Lesley Hunley: I am considering the newest learners, our incoming kindergarten students (and their parents).  They don’t have any concept of “school” in the K-12 world, but they also have needs that are varied and significant unlike any other groups.
    • Tammie Parrott: I am considering a third grade male who is a quick learner but needs structure. He needs a more rigid schedule online or within the classroom. He also misses the interactivity of other children. I am wondering how we can provide those things online.
    • Michele Jessee: The student that does not have internet in a rural area.
    • Gena Keller: The child who left us in March and has been in a compromised (unsafe / non-supportive / food insecure) environment since then…heart wrenching to me
    • Jennifer Greif: My learner is a young man who has been served with an IEP related to behaviors. He is thriving in building better relationships at home, striving to transition from boy to adolescent, and struggling with the idea of returning to any type of academic demands.  We will need to support him in transitioning to a structured schedule around more demanding tasks.  By next summer we want to think about how to avoid another slide – summer program for behaviors?  As leaders, we need to find ways to say yes to different ideas that can bring flexibility and structure.
    • Jaime Hanks: Many of our learners with disabilities are striving and thriving through the one on one instruction, but struggling with the lack of routine and repetition that supported learning in school buildings provide.
    • Daniel Smith: I believe that we must get in front of the narrative about the unknowns of the future of education and our world.  We must share the optimism that it brings.  Share how it will benefit us all.
    • Stephanie Haskins: Thinking about my own son — who is thriving at ‘hands-on, innovative projects right now.  When it comes to academics in the fall, I’m not sure how/ when I will even be able to find the time to support at-home learning.  This academic time is more of a battle.  😉
    • Tabitha Owen: The 6 year old entering 1st grade without fully completely Kindergarten.  She was just beginning to read and enjoy school when school was closed. She’s below grade level in reading.
    • Craig Bennett: I think about my son who is starting Kindergarten in these uncertain times. How this version of school will impact his journey as a learner. The best way I know to support him is to do everything in my power to keep him safe and keep communicating with him and those in our circle. Remembering too lots of learners, parents, teachers, admins are all in the same situation. We have to keep looking out for each other as a collective and doing what is best.
    • Andrea Hand: I think we serve a lot of learners (ourselves included!).  I will focus on a particular student…a rising freshman who was so excited to go to high school and is feeling deflated now that school will start virtually this year.  She is struggling socially/emotionally.   We must prepare schools/teachers to create an environment where she feels connected to others, despite being physically apart.  Her social/emotional needs are foundational to her engagement/willingness to learn.
    • Amos Fodchuk: I am thinking of an educator I met over a year ago through my network. She and her husband struggled to find learning experiences that support their daughter, who is diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Having found no options, she left her management-level job to start a school in the San Francisco Bay Area. I think of their school and 20 students who are working together to prepare for the coming academic year.
    • Mary Yeatts: Poor living conditions and sometimes homeless, poor hygiene, hyper and hypersensitive, capable, smart, outgoing, but defiant at times. . .has not been very compliant during summer session. . .has no computer or internet, but does usually have a cell phone. . .will probably not do the work if it is done digitally. . .a student who is definitely one who could fall through the cracks very easily.  Not sure that we can meet her needs during all of this.
    • Christie Day: Thinking about a rising 8th grader who offered feedback regarding division-level curriculum that was shared with all middle schoolers during crisis learning. She was losing privileges if not fully completing this work and the additional work she was accessing via her school. I now think about families who are creating “Learning Pods” and adding outside classes because they do not trust the learning that will happen this fall in a continued virtual environment. I worry for the mental health and wellness of these students who might be overly pressured without the social outlets they are used to and need.
    • Bernard Zdancewicz: I have 1 student in summer enrichment.  He attends every session, is striving to learn, but he is bored at times because the work is not challenging enough.  We need to find ways to provide him deeper learning, and give him more opportunities to show his talents.
    • Gary Ritchie: I am thinking about a senior who has been in foster care recently adopted — a star quarterback, African-American, who has had a really rough life.   I am sorry to see that he may not be able to play football or even attend his senior year full-time, if at all.
    • Pamela Moran: A teacher friend who has a handicapped child and who wants her child in school with peers because that’s where she learns so much socially with peers — and yet is scared to death about her child’s health so feeling her child is safer at home with her- and feeling that if she has to return to teach herself she will put her child at risk
    • Angela Stewart: In this moment, I am thinking about the PreK and K students who are just entering this experience we call ‘school’ and wonder how an uncertain fall will impact their PreK-12 learning experience.
    • Tammy Hobson: I am focused on how to help students have a more integral role in leading their own learning knowing that they will start the year in a virtual space.  How do we help that student who has typically relied on the teacher to help him/her understand his/her next steps and shift it to helping the student be able to recognize his/her opportunities for growth.
    • Adrienne Cole Johnson: The learner who has cozy living quarters and multiple siblings. I’m specifically thinking about the eldest child who is supporting younger siblings to support their single parent. How are they poured into and prepared for this? How do we intentionally support them in their growth and learning?
    • Christina Vitek: I’m thinking of my own elementary child. Rising 2nd grader who is missing direct instruction in reading but this time has given her an opportunity to connect with friends virtually and in the neighborhood, play, create and imagine. She’s learned a lot of technology and been able to have life experiences following me around and doing other things other than just typically learning. It’s different but there are positives and she is just as excited as ever to learn whatever the day throws at her. we should appreciate the opportunities kids do have
    • Julie Foss: I am thinking about our students of color, who have spent the pandemic watching protests and civil unrest in response to a lifetime of acts of violence and systemic inequity.  I am wondering how we move from allyship to abolitionism in schools.
    • Sarah Gunn: Students with high ACE scores and/or other special needs that are missing connections right now with people who love and advocate for them.
    • Bettrys Huffman: I am thinking about a teacher adult learner. She is struggling to make sense of changing expectations for fall and is hungry for on-demand PD snippets to highlight curricular changes, best practices for virtual delivery of instruction and assessments, and supporting students and families’ social-emotional needs and academic/career plans.
    • Rebecca Hall: Our rising 9th graders who are new to our school.  We will need to help them develop peer relationships as well as teacher/student relationships.
    • Lisa Dean: I am thinking about all my students that have not had access to adequate mental health services and those that have been living in unhealthy and trauma filled homes since we have closed schools.


Your responses illuminate some key takeaways and things to remember as we head into a school year that promises to challenge us all.

Relationships Matter:

Relationships have always mattered.  However, given magnified adult interdependence, the changing school to home partnership, and a different version of organic and casual interpersonal interactions in a virtual environment, our need to be explicit about building and sustaining relationships matters even more.  We invite you to continue to lean in and lean on the “N” in #VaLIN.

Equity is Bigger Than We Thought: 

Our initial discussions around equity when we first came together as a cohort at the beginning of the pandemic were around access.  Access ranged from reliable Internet services and devices, to basic human needs, to parents available and able to help with school, to services needed to learn, to information in one’s native language, to safety, just to name a few.  These needs around access remain. Your reflections on the learners you carry with you also reflect a broadened definition of equity, which includes critical consciousness around how decisions large and small translate to the daily, lived experiences of each and every learner.

We are All Learners:

As we work to launch fall learning during a pandemic, we are humbled by the path we are navigating. Each and every one of us is doing things we haven’t done before, navigating uncertainty in every aspect of our lives and feeling profoundly responsible for leading people through that uncertainty to boot.  Our choice to approach where we are now and where we are headed as learners doesn’t make any of what we are doing easier or less scary.  But it keeps us hopeful…

Thank you for truly being the #VaLIN journey.  We look forward to our continued collaboration with Cohort 2.  More information to follow from your ALP coach.

Until then, keep getting into “good trouble.”

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.”

~Representative John Lewis

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