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Taking time to pause sparks the capacity to take purposeful action.  It offers leaders time to replenish their tanks and build community; to know what they believe so they can inspire change. In 2020, we paused to reaffirm our core beliefs and created space for our partners to do the same.

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We believe in the power of pause so much that we created an entire community for it. We launched Connected Community as a virtual, open-access refuge for leaders navigating the once-in-a-generation crisis of COVID-19. Connected Community is a network to a growing group of educators who, by investing in their own emotional literacy and self-care, are beacons for those they lead to do the same.

180 Leaders Served  |  42 School Districts Reached  |  13 New District Partners

“I thought the pandemic response would be a sprint but it has become a marathon. At some point, I hit an anxiety wall. Thankfully, that was right at the time I decided to join Connected Community. The participants and facilitators are pushing my thinking as I retrain my brain and perspective for the road ahead.” -Erin Anderson, Paulding County, Middle School Teacher

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For most of us, the pandemic demanded us to pause. To stop moving and hunker down at home. But for the students at the Department for Juvenile Justice, quarantine separated them from home, cutting off critical connections with their support systems. Saturday visits with family were suspended indefinitely. Teachers were barred from facilities, reducing “school” to a worksheet and pencil provided by a correctional officer.

Not to be deterred, Dr. Angela Burse’s partnership with GLISI fueled her team’s inspiration and fresh ideas to meet the needs of historically marginalized students.

[LHB] What makes the student experience unique at your campuses?

[AB] The lack of agency in every other facet of their life. Our students are on campus 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They don’t get to go home at the end of the school day. They are told when to eat, sleep, shower, exercise, and when to learn.

[LHB] What unique challenges does that present for teachers? Leaders?

[AB]  Teachers have to be great at creating classrooms that are outlets for creativity. The rest of our students’ lives are so structured, driven by routine. Teachers have to be door openers to worlds beyond the one our students are in. Our leaders have to have social-emotional intelligence. They need a heightened sensitivity to the needs of teachers, and the needs of students. 

[LHB] How did the forced pause of the pandemic affect your students and educators? 

[AB]  When we weren’t allowed to be on campus with our students, their world became even more isolated and small. Correctional officers were the go-between, shepherding students’ work into the hands of principals, who then had to get it into the hands of teachers.  There were times when I felt more like a UPS delivery driver than a regional principal.

[LHB] What part, if any, did GLISI play in supporting you and your team through this challenging time? 

[AB]  For me, I so appreciated the pause that Connected Community offered me each week. It reminded me to slow down, to not be so focused on getting the job done. GLISI helped me check in with my emotional register and to keep front and center that people need to know I care about them. They need permission to feel.  Our teachers are people too--worried about their parents, their children.  As a leader, I’ve gleaned a little more compassion. My team still gets the job done, but we are taking time along the way to smell the roses a little more.

[LHB] What about your team?

[AB]  The words “motivation” and “inspiration” come to mind. We quickly found ways to build more human connection with and on behalf of our students.  For example, we’ve used FaceTime to supplant Saturday visitations between students and their loved ones. We also leveraged technology and small learning pods to find ways to get teachers more connected to their students, particularly those with additional learning. I’m proud of the ‘with-it-ness’ that our teachers are displaying. It’s our job to take the innovations that are sparking and ensure they aren’t sporadic, but become “the way we do business” on behalf of our students.

“I thought the pandemic response would be a sprint but it has become a marathon. At some point, I hit an anxiety wall. Thankfully, that was right at the time I decided to join Connected Community. The participants and facilitators are pushing my thinking as I retrain my brain and perspective for the road ahead.” -Erin Anderson, Paulding County, Middle School Teacher

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The world paused in horror as they watched the murder of George Floyd. For some, it was an awakening. For others, it was an affirmation of the America they’ve always known. This year, our team harnessed the power of pause to reaffirm our commitment to racial justice and equity.

Leaders often tout the power of pause—to avoid overcommitments of time, to get strategies more tightly aligned, or to take a breath before hitting the ground running again. The often overlooked power of pause is the solitude it offers—to better know yourself, so you can more effectively lead others. 

The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many who came before them are a painful call to steady our resolve and work tirelessly for a Georgia where schools and communities pursue breakthrough success for every student. So long as students of color are underserved, our work is incomplete. 

TIMELINE GRAPHIC

In 2018, we recast our mission and vision to explicitly include equity and racial justice, intentionally seeking excellent and equitable outcomes for every student through our service lines ever since. In 2020, our team harnessed the power of pause to reaffirm our commitments: 

  1. To shine a light on the unconscious social norms that devalue, derail and silence students and families based on the color of their skin
  2. To build our own capacity to disrupt those norms through our work with leaders and communities.