If you asked some of my closest friends and family what about me surprises them, many would say it’s the fact that I lead an ed-tech company.
I am not a tech-savvy person. I don’t know how to turn on our television, and I have a no-screens policy with my children. But I am the CEO of an ed-tech company which serves thousands of schools. And now, thousands of living rooms too. How is that possible?
Move This World has been able to pivot and shift strategy quickly during the coronavirus outbreak due to our focus on school communities and a dedication to collecting feedback. By putting our community first and allowing teachers and students to guide us towards solutions that work for as many classrooms as possible, we are forced to look critically at our services and reconsider what we are doing time and time again.
Being open to feedback and willing to rapidly shift is something that’s not new to me or my team.
In 2007, Move This World began as a direct service model as part of my Fulbright Scholarship. Though the students we worked with were engaged in dynamic social-emotional learning lessons, it was clear from the data and teacher feedback that we needed to offer consistent SEL support, allowing students and teachers to benefit when our staff were not in the building. So in 2011, we shifted to a train-the-trainer model to better support teachers in their everyday instruction.
The training sessions were moving, inspiring, and playful. Teachers and administrators laughed, cried, and connected to one another, and ultimately, to themselves. However, we were still missing a key piece of the puzzle. We learned that teachers needed a solution with minimal planning time that did not require a heavy lift. It finally dawned on me: We had to go digital.
When a Pandemic Hits
Fast forward to the 2019-2020 school year, and students and teachers across the country are using our video-based SEL lessons to help identify, express and manage emotions every day. What was born from a team of creative arts therapists, mental health professionals, and educators is now brought to scale through a production set and a TV crew, and today in May 2020, brought to many families’ living rooms.
We never would have predicted that a pandemic would shift the role families play in teaching and learning, but our commitment to our community and meeting their needs is once again guiding how we move forward. We listen carefully to what our partners need and respond quickly.
In mid-March, we began transferring our video content to Vimeo showcases in order to ensure families would be able to easily access the content without needing district support to set up new accounts, a pain point we were hearing from administrators. We rolled out supplemental resources in the form of activities, games, and worksheets that build upon video lessons and can be used at home. Based on recent feedback, we’ve released resources that don’t require printing. We’ve also translated all COVID-19 supplemental resources to Spanish.
We know that now more than ever, we need opportunities to connect to ourselves in meaningful ways. In response, we’ve also launched MTW special programming, bringing new video content from our homes to those of students and families multiple times per week. Through technology, creative expression, and a commitment to the purpose of this work — fueling our well-being and ability to thrive — we’re empowering families to prioritize social-emotional wellness and making it more accessible for everyone.
Some Guiding Principles
The past seven weeks have served as a vivid reminder of why we serve students. In order to do that, we must always be ready and willing to do the following:
- Deeply understand needs. Forming close relationships with our partner schools helps us better understand their challenges, so we can ensure that we are offering the support they need, when they need it.
- Be open to feedback. Our team consists of former classroom teachers, licensed social workers, and individuals with many years of experience within education. That doesn’t mean that the ideas we dream up in our office will translate well into every classroom in our country. By constantly seeking feedback, we once again ensure we meet our partners’ needs and push ourselves to grow as an organization.
- Shift quickly. The pandemic threw a challenge at us that no one was quite prepared for. As individuals, we had to immediately change our lives. As an organization, we had to shift our strategy in order to make sure we could keep meeting the needs of our students and teachers. But the ability to act quickly isn’t only important in the midst of a pandemic. The challenges our students and teachers face rapidly change on a day to day basis, and our organizations must be willing to shift with them. Our students don’t have time to waste.
These aren’t the shifts I would have ever imagined for Move This World when we started in 2007, but it’s clear they are the shifts that were necessary to meet this moment. We will always operate in a manner that puts our community first, no matter how much it might surprise us or cause us to question our own values and beliefs, because they are the reason we do this work. By putting our community first, we’ve been better able to adapt and thrive as a company.