We chatted with Michael J. Hynes, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools for Port Washington School District, Port Washington, NY, to get his thoughts on the challenges faced by districts throughout COVID-19 and what he views as the silver lining to it all. Here’s what he had to say.
Do you have any tips for engaging students (or teachers) in remote learning? I have witnessed amazing lessons by our teachers this past year. Something I have found to be one of the most effective ways to engage kids is to make them feel like you are all connected. I was recently in a classroom with a teacher, he had two students physically in class and another 21 learning remotely. This amazing teacher made sure he interacted with all his students, asked them questions, they broke out into groups to answer questions….Staying connected is key.
How do you manage your stress level during these uncertain times? How do you help school staff members manage their own stress? Personally, I have a morning and evening routine that keeps me grounded. It helps with my stress. In my 25 years in education, I can honestly say I’ve never been this tired both mentally and physically than now. My staff has gone above and beyond this year. From our administrators, teachers, custodians, and other staff members…I try to thank them as often as I can, keep a good sense of humor, and be flexible as much as possible.
What’s been the biggest silver lining to come out of the past year? By far having all of our kids outside often. I love watching our high school kids outside as classes are taught. I’ve seen elementary classrooms outside even in freezing temperatures. Kids truly benefit by being outside and [I] think this practice will continue even after this pandemic is over!
What are you doing in your community to engage with families and parents? Every Sunday evening, I have a Sunday Evening Fireside Chat. I create a recorded phone call on ConnectED with a message for all our families outlining what events are taking place. I will usually share a quote that resonated with me and try to stay connected. Once a month, I will create a video doing the same thing. Recently we have used a tool called Thoughtexchange. This allows our community to share their thoughts and feelings related to a topic of interest. It’s powerful!