ALEXANDRIA, VA – On Wednesday you heard Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr. answered “10 Questions” from guest host Jane Hess Collins about himself, Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), and how Alexandrians can get involved in our great city during our Z-TV LIVE! show. But do you know what he would buy if he won $10 million? Or his biggest concern when ACPS starts online learning this fall? Here are five more questions with Dr. Hutchings:
- What is the morale like among the ACPS staff and how are you keeping them motivated?
Well, I was intentional about recording update videos each week to stay connected with our staff and families. I made them to help the staff hear from me, and it helped me empathize and understand what they were going through during this global pandemic. I’ve also tried to model self-care. I think that’s helped them during this difficult time. It’s truly unprecedented and a lot of how we respond and react during these unprecedented times are trial and error. There’s no playbook for this. So I’ve found that staying connected with the staff was fulfilling and refreshing. I’m experiencing what they are – sometimes my kids would run across the room during a Zoom call or they would hear my wife taking a call, for example – so they know I’m experiencing some of the same challenges they are. I constantly remind them that we are better together than alone.
- What is your biggest worry regarding this upcoming school year?
The uncertainty that the global pandemic brings. I can’t provide the community with a definitive answer with so many uncertainties. I can’t say, “This is how it will be” and that worries me. And, I know that virtual learning is not best practice for all kids but it’s the most feasible for this period of time. We’ll do everything feasible to ensure our students’ social, emotional and academic needs met; however, I know it’s not the best learning option for every student. We have to be innovative in how we catch students up, and how we help to manage that with families.
- What are some creative ways that teachers have kept students engaged during online learning?
Our staff will focus on professional learning during the week of August 24 to build capacity on engaging our students virtually. Virtual student engagement is very different than in person student engagement. hen the pandemic started a lot of our teachers were not familiar or comfortable Zoom. It wasn’t something we learned in college or graduate school. However, our staff is resilient and now, for example, we’re having online scavenger hunts during our training where we all have to find something in our own home and share it on zoom. That breaks the ice, and it’s also something that the teachers will have to learn to do with our students while they are online. We’ll have more details on student engagement strategies in the next few weeks.
- Have you ever been caught in a natural disaster?
Yes, I was in Nashville during the flood in 2010 when I worked for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools as a principal. Many parts of the city flooded. It was a very traumatic experience. We had several families and staff members in our school who lost everything. I volunteered with FEMA and went to homes. I’d never seen an entire home after being submerged under water. And the smell! I was visiting families, talking to kids, and delivering supplies. It was a very pivotal moment and it taught me that we’re not in control of tomorrow. I’m glad that I had that experience prior to this pandemic.
- If you won $10 million in the lottery next week, would you buy a jet ski, a private plane, or a Lamborghini, and why?
I’d buy a private plane! I want to fly all over the world. I love to travel, and once I had a taste of international business class I loved it! When I fly I like to have my own space and lay down and take a nap especially on an international flight. My son loves aviation so I’ll get him to get his pilot’s license so he can fly us all over the world.
TEN QUESTIONS WITH DR. GREGORY C. HUTCHINGS, JR