This week marks the first week of Spring Break for the Rio School District in the 2019-2020 school year. It also marks the fourth week of campus closures due to the coronavirus event. Somehow it doesn’t much feel like Spring Break this year. It’s normal for the administrative team to keep working and planning during Spring Break and also take some days off. Administrators have longer contracts than teachers and some staff. Their contracts are usually 200+ days and essentially are year round with a comparatively healthy number of vacation or off days as compared to private sector jobs. Those of us higher up in the hierarchy of running the organizations as well as those who support this work know and experience the work in a more 24/7 sense of things. We have the responsibility for the facilities and people and services that make up the organization which function year round and everyday. This is the work.
Still, this Spring Break seems very different, we are trying hard to let our front line folk; teachers, principals, and support staff get some semblance of a break even as they stay home and try to stay safe and well in these coronatimes. Time is altered these days. The day can seem to go by fast in some ways and other times go very slow. Our rhythms and paces, our schedules, our habits are all altered. We are finding new ways to do this work and relying on our old conventions as we create new conventions. In this Great Adaptation, we are being tested and we best rely on our core principles and the frameworks of universals that guide us.
In Rio, we early adopted a developing national trend towards the 4 Cs of the so named “21st Century” learning movement. We soon after, added a 5th C. (Caring). All along, these were and are sufficient ways to describe universals for Thriving organizations, communities, families.
Collaboration – how we work together – beyond cooperation – working at the same time, is the foundation. It describes how we are as a collective. While Rio has had its up and downs historically, Rio 2020 works together in a truly synergistic manner – in a beehive manner – Bucky Fuller coined the term, describing the outcome as more than the sum of its parts and Rio’s collaboration often demonstrates this true team spirit outcome. As every organization, we are challenged by many dynamics to truly collaborate. This year, we set an aim to improve children’s literacy through our own improved collaboration. We are more than challenged now in these coronatimes to collaborate. We are learning to do it in very different contexts and for many, in new paradigms.
Communication – how we communicate with each other and with all we engage is essential in these coronatimes. From google meets to developing online, phone based, and paper document communications we are challenged to rely less on face to face and more on our ability to both produce and receive digital communications. We are challenged to express our humanity through these media. In these times, connection and relationships, truth, balance, stability, well being, hope, clarity, openness, flexibility, vulnerability and strength are all highly valued in our communications.
Critical Thinking – how we think well to solve problems is at premium now. In Rio, we tend to gather information from many sources, develop plans and innovations in small scales, take actions, study the actions, recreate plans, and do something again. We tend to follow the Plan, Do, Study, Act model of improvement science and seek to find balances of standardizing things that need to be and promoting diversity and variance when they need to be. Unlike the typical structural and staid educational institution, we seek to be generative and innovative and engage in organic development of problem solving through a process of engaging as many elements in the strata of the organization as is needed to move forward in an improvement process. One thing that is critical to critical thinking is to use data effectively which includes including a variety of kinds of data and being highly vigilant to understand and situate the data in its most real contexts.
Creativity – how we think divergently, how we think out of the box, (we’re all out of the box and in the box now), how we think artistically individually and collaboratively means everything in Rio. Like a bloom, Rio has unfolded its deep creative nature and capacity in recent years. Always there, but most recently provided and nurtured to bloom, the creative energy of teachers and staff in every department is truly the strength of the Rio School District. This has sparked the same in our children and their families and is the greatest wealth people can have. To make something out of nothing. To create a new. To make something out of something. These powers, skills, interests, habits, ways of being are essential to meeting the challenges of these coronatimes and they serve to sustain us and attract us to improving our aims; connecting with children, engaging them to learn, and improving their learning over time.
Caring – how we care for each other, ourselves, our community, our environment. This is what makes Rio really Rio. Deep deep caring is the river.
For me, 21st century learning has become passe…now 20 years in. While the 4Cs and now 5Cs seemed like just another educational meme that reduces great complexity to dangerously cliche words less often backed up by organizational action, Rio has rooted itself on these Cs and many other deep universals. In these coronatimes, we will take a brief pause for Spring Break, then we will rally for the nine weeks that remain of the 2019-20 school year. We will continue to adapt to the new world this virus has forced us to face. We will survive, for sure, we will be resilient for sure, and we will seek and drive and learn to THRIVE.