Rethinking What’s Ahead: How One Principal is Looking Back to Move Forward
Crises can show us who we are and who our leaders are. Now more than ever, educators and leaders across the country need time to pause, to reflect and rethink how they want to lead moving forward. “We just thought this crisis was going to be over faster,” observes Maggy Olson, principal of Milwaukee College Prep 38th Street Campus (PreK-8) and a New Leaders alum.
“Being out of school for a month is very different from being out of school for three months,” she adds. “We need to get out of survival mode, like from surviving to thriving.” Olson and her team are reimagining how their school community will thrive in this moment and beyond.
Olson’s reflections come at a time when this school year is coming to a close and the next one remains unknown. Now is the time to look back and reflect on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted students, families, teachers, and principals, in order to rethink and plan for all that comes next.
Using New Leaders’ end of the year reflection tool, Olson identifies the early wins she celebrates with her leadership team and the inevitable setbacks that propel them forward:
Listen to gain insight into how Olson uses her reflections to prioritize and consider how she and her staff will pivot and move forward differently in the 2020-21 school year. Central to her vision is planning for students, families, and staff to excel in whatever form the next school year takes.
Looking ahead, Olson identifies three main areas of focus: social and emotional learning, standards-based instruction, and operations. For the first two, the critical need for human connectedness – once as simple as a hug or a high-five – is taking on new importance along with the need to provide consistent opportunities for students to engage in complex learning tasks. Limiting instruction to review skills or focusing on remediation is what Olson fears most moving into the new school year. “We have hard mountains to climb,” she reminds everyone. “But we can climb them.”
Exploring existing models of successful online schools is one of Olson’s goals as she and her team consider virtual and in-person options, or a combination of both this fall. Unlike the unexpected need for rapid response in March, Olson and her team will vet the new operations plan. They will study best practices. They will continue analyzing data on student engagement over the summer to inform and refine their fall rollout. With clear direction and expectation, along with empathy and accountability, Olson plans to set a course for children and adults to thrive.
“The only way out of darkness is light,” Olson reflects. “Think about how you are bringing light into your community and bringing light to your staff and love to your students. Although we are still virtual, love is the most important factor for educators. That love is not just hugs and kisses. That love is high expectations and knowing our kids deserve the best education.”
Maggy Olson is the founding principal at Milwaukee College Prep 38th Street Campus. Under her leadership, Milwaukee College Prep has earned the highest rating from the state for overall student achievement and growth. Olson began her career almost 20 years ago as a special education coach and teacher.