“We Will Get Through This Ordeal Together." How One Principal is Motivating His School to Stay Connected
“I can’t tell what day it is,” principal Felipe Jackson reflects, chuckling. He is still in front of his computer long after a normal school day might have ended. Jackson, a NewLeaders alum, leads Bear Creek Middle School in Fulton County, Georgia. “We have to rely on each other,” he explains. “Given the state of our nation, we are all that we have. We will get through this ordeal together.”
While schools are now closed in Georgia through the end of the school year, Jackson has not stopped leading. His faculty meets regularly in online professional learning communities. His instructional leadership team meets via Microsoft Teams. Students engage in interactive lessons and participate in a virtual spirit week. The doors to Bear Creek Middle School may not be open, but Jackson is redefining what community means.
Jackson is used to thinking fast. In early March, well before national school closures were the norm, a staff member contracted the coronavirus. This was a first for Fulton County. Jackson had to navigate a soft lockdown, parent outreach, and early dismissal with 34 buses at once. Today, Jackson is still modeling that same calm resolve as he actively – and intentionally – preserves a sense of community among students, families, and staff. “School is not over,” he advises. “It’s just in another form.”
Listen as he shares his reflections on how he engages with his school community, how he communicates with every stakeholder, and how he makes himself visible and accessible in an effort to promote a feeling of connectedness.
Jackson, like educators and leaders across the country, is guiding his school community through an unprecedented time. He is redefining school closures as motivation – the opportunity for his faculty to get better together and increase their engagement with students and families. Students’ curiosity and their capacity to learn, he reminds his team, have not changed.
As for his own motivation, Jackson shares how this time has changed him as well. “My eyes were opened when I was working the food distribution line. Once I saw the food our families were receiving, it changed my whole perspective. I will do whatever it takes to meet the needs of my students. That is the bottom line… Because you don’t see what you need to see unless you are on the front line.”