Virtual School Meanderings

September 26, 2020

Spotlight on our Oneida Nation Partnership

An item from a US-based blended learning organization.

Learn more about our parent workshop series


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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • Oneida Nation professional learning series
  • Keeping up with the Fuse MA Fellowship
  • The RI School Support Helpline is here to help! Free coaching for all RI educators, students, & families
  • Free & virtual Board Boot Camp from the Rhode Island Foundation
  • Multiple parent workshops in English & Spanish from Parent Support Network

Supporting Your Child at Home Series with the Oneida Nation

This month, our team members Shawn Rubin and Malika Ali have been working in partnership with the Oneida Nation School System in New York State to deliver a series of virtual workshops for parents and families entitled “Supporting Your Child at Home”. These sessions have included strategies related to:

  • Setting up an at-home learning environment;
  • Practicing social emotional learning at home;
  • Achieving academic mastery;
  • Advocating for school change through feedback & design; and
  • Getting to know your child’s learning platform

During this time of upheaval and change, we recognize that both families and schools are looking for new ways to meet the needs of their learners. We are grateful to be part of this workshop series as one step toward deepening school and family partnerships, with the ultimate goal of supporting both the well-being and academic success of all students. Thank you to the Oneida Nation education community for your honesty, vulnerability, and creativity throughout this process.

Fuse MA Fellowship Cohort 2 Updates

Our Fuse MA Fellowship partnership with The Education Cooperative had its first official meeting of the 2020-2021 school year yesterday. Program Manager Meg Smallidge & Fuse MA Coordinator Ken Toomey led Fellows through small group check-ins around their independent projects. The second half of the meeting featured a cross-collaborative scavenger hunt and district-specific breakout rooms with pilot teachers and school/district administrators from the Cohort 2 partner districts. Educators discussed various challenges they’re facing as they navigate back-to-school scenarios and shared ideas and strategies that have been working well for teachers, students, and families. We look forward to our next monthly meeting in October. Thank you to all Fellows and Fuse MA community members who were able to join us!

From Other Organizations

Virtual Board Boot Camp

We are excited to announce that the Rhode Island Foundation will again host Board Boot Camp, a free training program for active, passionate Rhode Islanders who are looking for ways to serve their community and make a lasting difference by helping to shape the state’s critical nonprofit sector through board service. Entirely virtual, Board Boot Camp is designed to equip participants with the awareness, skills, and capabilities to serve on a nonprofit board. Candidates must have no prior board service experience. Those interested can register by completing the Board Boot Camp Participant Survey by October 1. 

New Opportunities from Parent Support Network

As students, teachers, and families prepare for the 2020-2021 school year, social-emotional learning will play an important role in helping them navigate the emotional and logistical challenges created by the events of the past few months. Social Emotional Learning can help us understand and examine biases, reflect on and address the impact of racism, build intercultural relationships, and cultivate adult and student practices that close opportunity gaps and create more inclusive school communities for these difficult times.

Parent Support Network continues to provide resources for parents, educators and other professionals who are working with children with serious emotional, behavioral and/or mental health challenges, and are dedicated to helping them be successful in and out of school.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

September 24, 2020

Free Bilingual Virtual Workshop for Parents

Okay it seems that like it was back in March and April, and I guess May and June.  The volume of virtual, blended, hybrid, and remote learning items that I was to pass along are becoming too voluminous and I’m posting much more than I should over the weekends.  So for the remainder of the day, I’ll be posting hourly to get caught up.

Starting with this workshop notice – and note that the workshop is in about two hours or so.

Join us in partnership with Providence Promise


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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

Spread the Word with Parents in Your Network!

Free Bilingual Virtual Workshop on How to Navigate Google Classroom

Available in English & Spanish

Thursday, September 24 at 5:30PM

September 19, 2020

Reflecting On Our Internal Team Learning This Summer

An item from a US-based K-12 blended learning organization.

How our organizational culture has shifted amidst the pandemic


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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • Reflecting on our organizational culture & our team’s learning this summer
  • Chief Education Officer Shawn Rubin featured in The Hechinger Report
  • Spread the word! RI School Support Helpline offers free support to ALL educators, families, and students as schools reopen
  • Brooklyn LAB releases Public School Facilities Planning in the Era of COVID-19 Guide

Reflecting on Our Internal Team Learning this Summer

Over the course of this summer, the Highlander Institute team has made a commitment to focusing on our internal organizational culture. Like many organizations across the globe, in March our whole staff shifted to working from home in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This has forced us to reimagine how we interact with one another and created an opportunity to really dig into building an organization that is co-constructed as an entire staff. We dedicated every Wednesday to this process and have covered internal procedures, organizational structure and job titling, cross-department deliverables, a transition to more collaborative decision-making, and diversity, equity and inclusion. We had our last weekly meeting of the summer this Wednesday but are dedicated to continuing this reflective process over the course of the year.

Chief Education Officer Shawn Rubin cited in new article from The Hechinger Report

The recent piece “Best practices for remote learning, according to experts” from The Hechinger Report focuses on what parents and educators returning to schools in remote learning settings can do to engage and support their learners.

“One way educators can make sure students are responding to the material is by providing them with ‘authentic and deep feedback,’ according to Shawn Rubin, chief education officer of the Highlander Institute, an education nonprofit. If students know their teacher will actually give their assignments a real look and provide them with personal, specific, targeted feedback, they’ll take the work more seriously, Rubin said.”

From Other Organizations

Earlier this month, Brooklyn LAB announced the launch of the “Public School Facilities Planning in the Era of COVID-19” guide, which presents lessons from our school’s journey to safeguard community health and offers resources for other schools to learn from its process, planning, and approach. Brooklyn LAB is also launching a COVID-19 K12 Equitable Response Open Iconography Library, with visual components to clarify the back-to-school process, and to present information in a way that helps school communities engage, weigh in, and ultimately help hold each other accountable in the COVID-19 era.

The guide describes new approaches organized around four basic needs:

  • Strategies to prevent the spread.
  • Strategies to contain the spread.
  • Strategies to facilitate learning and continual improvement in the pandemic context.
  • Strategies to establish an ongoing, iterative process.

We remain steadfast in our commitments to serving the highest need scholars and maximizing wellness and health.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

September 12, 2020

RI School Support Helpline Continues As A Free Service This Fall

A newsletter from a US-based K-12 blended learning organization.

Submit a request today online or via phone


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Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • Spread the word! Our RI School Support Helpline continues as schools reopen, offering FREE support to families, educators, & students
  • NEW! Spotlight Series post from Heidi Vazquez on Getting to Know Students in a Virtual Setting
  • Rhode Island College’s Social Policy Hub for Equity Research in Education (SPHERE) Releases Education Policy Primer
  • Build Community 1 Thank You at a Time with GiveThx

Free Support through Our Helpline Continues as RI Schools Reopen Next Week

We at Highlander Institute recognize that students, families, and educators have all been impacted in different, unpredictable ways by COVID-19 and school reopening plans. Teachers and families are rising to the challenge, but many of them may have questions or concerns on their minds. Please spread the word that the RI School Support Helpline (formerly the RI Distance Learning Helpline) is continuing this fall to offer support, address needs, and make connections. We would like to send a major thank you to Rhode Island Foundation for their generous support of this vital service. We are grateful to the RI Department of Education and the Governor’s Office for their partnership.

Are you interested in submitting a request for support or know someone who needs help? Click on this link to fill out the form and a Highlander Institute representative will be in touch within 48 hours. Looking to leave a voicemail instead to describe your issue? You can call our helpline at (401) 232-4725‬.

NEW! Spotlight Series Post from Heidi Vazquez

How do you meet your students over a video meeting? How can students connect and get to know each other virtually? Getting to know your students individually and collectively just needs small adjustments with tools and delivery for hybrid or distance learning. This spotlight will share two strategies to begin to build rapport and community connections with students. Through activities featured in this spotlight, teachers will be able to create safe, efficient, collaborative learning environments where students are seen, valued, cared for, and respected. The development of caring student-teacher and student-student relationships supports identity-based learning, intergroup awareness and understanding. Once these relationships and trust are established, students will have the confidence to persevere through challenges.

From Other Organizations

Social Policy Hub for Equity Research in Education (SPHERE) Releases New Report

Rhode Island was commended for its commitment to continue distance learning throughout the end of the 2019-2020 school year, but for many families, expectations for teaching and learning in the midst of so much upheaval were unrealistic. As we look ahead to the upcoming school year and beyond, there are important conversations for us to have. How might our institutions of higher education prepare teachers for a schooling environment so unlike the one that we used to know? How can we make sure that public schools receive adequate and equitable funding, even if wealthier families funnel resources into learning pods for their children? What are the appropriate metrics for achievement and accountability that attend to equity and justice for all youth in the state?

“I finished writing this primer in early 2020, before most people knew anything about COVID-19. Although the content does not address schooling in light of this new reality, I believe it provides a foundation for us to understand education policy broadly, and gives us a basis from which to imagine greater possibilities for schooling in the future. I hope that it proves to be a useful resource for stakeholders throughout the state.” – Adrienne C. Goss, PhD, Director of SPHERE

Build Community 1 Thank You at a Time 

GiveThx is a digital tool and curriculum that strengthens student wellbeing and social-emotional skills using gratitude practice. In response to COVID, the program is free for schools to support building community and wellness. Open and editable practices that support in-person and distance learning can be found here. Interested educators can learn more in this overview and sign up through the button below.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

September 8, 2020

Supporting Your Children At Home Series

An item from a US-based blended learning organization.

Join us in partnership with Providence Promise


No images? Click here

Join the conversation as we partner with communities to design and implement school-based change.

In This Week’s Issue

  • NEW! Workshop series in partnership with Providence Promise
  • Spotlight on our partnership with the Quabbin Regional School District in Massachusetts
  • Upcoming webinar from Education Development Center & RIDE on SEL & Mental Health Supports
  • Deloitte’s Monitor Institute issues report on decision-making for the social sector amidst COVID-19

Join us, in partnership with Providence Promise, for a parent & family series focused on Supporting Your Children at Home. Workshop #1: Establishing a routine and setting up the learning environment, will be hosted virtually on the Zoom platform next week on Thursday, September 10 from 5:30-6:30PM EDT. This is a free event and we hope you spread the word to the parents, guardians, and family members in your networks. Learn more and register through the Eventbrite page by clicking below.

Meaningful Instruction with a Focus on Thinking Routines for Student Engagement

This week, our Chief Education Officer Shawn Rubin led 2 days of jam-packed virtual professional development with over 150 faculty & staff from the Quabbin Regional School District. Shawn was joined by team member Vera De Jesus for the elementary session on September 2 and Maeve Murray for the secondary session on September 3. Each 3-hour session modeled interactive activities and experiences with educators taking on the role of learners, emphasized how thinking routines can drive student engagement and academic success, and shared resources that are replicable and usable on day 1 of school with students. The workshops utilized opening routines to facilitate community-building through the lens of sociocultural awareness and leveraged reflection protocols to set expectations around productive struggle. We would like to thank Quabbin’s administrators and entire educator community for their deep engagement and thoughtful questions.

From Other Organizations

Building an Effective Multi-Tiered System of SEL and Mental Health Supports in your District

COVID-19 and ongoing racial inequities are creating a new wave of stress, fear, and trauma for students, parents, and educators. The most effective way for districts to address these challenges is by implementing equitable and effective systems of social and emotional learning (SEL) and mental health supports based on the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS Framework). Education Development Center, a Massachusetts-based, national nonprofit organization has developed a research-based approach that helps districts build an SEL and Mental Health MTSS model that is data-driven, culturally responsive, and sustainable over time. Learn about this approach through a free webinar offered on Wednesday, September 9 from 12:00-1:00PM EDT.

An Event or an Era? Resources for Social Sector Decision-Making in the Context of COVID-19

This summer, the Monitor Institute by Deloitte released a scenario planning resource for social sector leaders in cooperation with New Profit, the Center for Effective Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, the National Center for Family Philanthropy, and United Philanthropy Forum. The report aims to help philanthropic and nonprofit leaders make sense of the new realities, critical uncertainties, and potential futures that are emerging from the COVID-crisis.

Highlander Institute thanks our Mission Sponsors for their generous support:

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