Planning for Distance Learning with the PRN staff by Evelyn Cosme-Jones


Our goal as the PRN staff is to guide our Aspiring Principals (APs) to take ownership of their transformative learning and to become self-directed leaders as they pursue their unlimited potential, while pushing for equity for every student in systems that are often rife with limited opportunities. With this high hope and expectation always present, leaning into our norms and revisiting them when we met as a team to adapt our instruction from physical, face to face to digital, virtual distant learning, especially the ones below, was invaluable.

  • Practice divergent thinking

  • Cultivate a culture of giving and receiving direct feedback from a place of caring and growth

  • Lean in/come closer to keep each other in the risk zone

The opportunity to practice divergent thinking was in full effect, because our team had never in a full scale way planned for distance learning before. We gleaned from readings, bounced ideas off of each others and gathered from the field as we learned about how our grandchildren, children, teenagers, relatives and collaborators were engaging in this odd and expansive new world of remote learning, and we took notes. Feedback moved from mere tilling to deep cultivation, as sharing our ideas and plans for improvement became a daily, integral part of our work. We realized that we needed (need) each other in ways we never knew, as we ventured into this new territory. In our limited exposure to distance learning in this shape and form, we had to become interdependent in a way undreamt of before, because we who have been teacher leaders, principals, directors, superintendents and community leaders, became novices again. This reliance on each other, uncomfortable vulnerability and risk taking in leaps and bounds required in the new learning context led to a level of humility that, in the end, helped us to truly live the third norm-that of leaning in and becoming closer to each other in the risk zone, as leaders, learners and mostly as human beings. 

After the challenges and optimism of new learning we engaged in, and now that we have sent our plans out to our participants in the world, this is the time when the real work begins! To monitor how our blended learning plans are working for those we serve, we have developed various feedback systems, which include weekly Google Hangout drop in sessions for questions, a shared Q+A digital sheet for the participants which we respond to within a workday and a continued level of responsiveness (another norm!). When we sense that our participants are approaching or are in the danger zone amid these times of enormous and undeniable upheaval, our response includes online meetings, phone calls, texting and rapid email replies-all with a heaping of warmth and demand, because our goal in the program continues to be supporting our future educational leaders in the program to reach the finish line. As we take in the genuine and raw feedback from our participants, we plan to continue to be responsive and, when needed, to divergently shift gears, as we explore how to best guide our participants to continue to empower themselves to courageously lead for equity, now in this unusual world of “distance leadership”.