Paul Baly: How Education Leaders Are Adapting to the Current Crisis (Ep. #19)

By
The Better Manager Team
BetterManager Executive Coach

May 26, 2020

Building Better Managers Podcast Episode #18: How Education Leaders Are Adapting to the Current Crisis

Leadership in all areas of life is essential right now, but especially in education and business. Today we welcome Paul Baly, Middle School Director of an elite private school in Manhattan. We’ll discuss the challenges and the learnings that have come the switch to distance learning after physical schools closed.

There are many lessons here for collaboration, communication and connection for everyone.

Big appreciation for teachers everywhere!

In this episode:

Meet Paul Baly

  • Bio & Background

The New Challenges of Mass Remote Learning

  • The school environment thrives on the ability to fluidly connect and communicate with each other. That quick 5 minute conversation that would usually happen outside of a classroom by catching a student in the hallway, now has to be scheduled in an online meeting. The dynamics are completely different.
  • Parents are looking for structure to their day. And middle schoolers are not known to be self-driven and self-motivated. They need that those external motivations to really be successful.
  • We've tried to connect as much as possible with with parents. We're having many webinars instead of sending written correspondence. We're trying to do as much video correspondence because we feel that personal connection is so critical to success.

The Crisis Reaction Timeline

  • What's fascinating is the timeline. We heard about this pandemic in mid-January. We've had other other pandemics (SARS and Ebola), and because those didn't reach North America, this one at the time didn't seem any different.
  • Around early February we started to see that this probably is going to come our way and we should prepare. It still seemed very abstract. None of us had ever been in a quarantine situation. We were lucky enough to have a lower school director who had been in China during the SARS epidemic, and she understood what this might look like. But we were still thinking, "maybe we'll have two or three weeks off."
  • As mid-March approached, we really did have our ducks in a row, we had explored all the tools, we had defined what distance learning would look like, we identified these terms synchronous and asynchronous - in the past synchronous was kind of something needed for your watch, but now it was about how much real time should students be spending with with their teachers, and how much was on their own time.
  • We then had to wrap our head around the fact that this is most likely gonna be throughout the rest of the year. That evolution really came quickly. We then had to ensure that we were going to meet curricular goals, and also engage our community. So the big challenge was how much synchronous time should we be spending with students? What's best from an educational standpoint?
  • The benefits from synchronous learning. There are definitely some benefits to video recording. There have been some unbelievable debates that students have had because that this format really lends itself to one speaker at a time. Students have been able to have some great classroom discussion.
  • Some drawbacks: it was difficult to put students into small groups, and it's very difficult to assign independent work. So we've had to balance that that you know, what makes sense from a standpoint of expectations of the way in which students are using their time and what makes the most sense from from giving getting the most most Educational bang for your buck.
  • Understanding the different home situations: some had two frontline workers who are out 13-14 hours a day and the students are in a house with a sitter or nanny, while others were with one or both both parents full-time who are able to help structure the day.

The Importance of Collaboration

  • Virtual 'Managing by Walking Around' - popping in on various online meeting to see what is going on.
  • Getting feedback from the stakeholders on the solutions you're trying and on ones in the planning stages.
  • Intentional Messaging: Giving the 50k foot view to everyone.

The Importance of Connection

  • Using your institutional communication resources to help craft and deliver you message.
  • Dealing with the demands of the increased urgency of the right messaging in times of crisis and change.
  • Getting the right balance and cadence of group and 1:1 meetings.

The Importance of Relationships

  • The interdependence of peer, team, management and home/personal relationships.
  • Understanding that each relationship can bring support or disruption, so communication channels have to be open and flexible.
  • Creating time to make sure each relationship is strong and supportive.

Downloads & Resources

Follow Paul on LinkedIn here.

Subscribe to our podcast on your favorite podcast platform!

Check out our blog articles on Leadership here.

Paul Baly

Paul Baly is currently the Middle School Director at the Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School in Upper Manhattan. Paul has worked in Independent School’s for the past twenty years in Upstate New York, Columbia, South Carolina, the Pittsburgh suburbs, Englewood, NJ, and now Manhattan. In his tenure, he’s served as an English teacher, varsity lacrosse coach, and multiple administrative roles, yet he has been a principal for the past twelve years.

During the quarantine, Paul’s been waking up early to run along the Hudson River, put on a jacket and tie to deliver the morning announcements, house training his 12 week old puppy, and managing his three kids online learning process.

Episode Transcript

Posted on

May 26, 2020