Our job is to establish safe and supportive relationships first between teachers and students, and then student to student. Our parents are primarily concerned with the physical and emotional health of their children; scholastic education is in the backseat. We need to address that before instruction can begin. To do so, teachers must establish solid communication channels with both students and parents. The village has been on lock-down for months and parents are desperate to engage with their academic collaborators, their children’s teachers. Children too miss the support and caring they receive from their teachers and classmates. This must come first. Many summer school teachers commented on the importance of daily check-ins that included eye contact and asking questions like, “how are you today.” The students’ worlds have been restricted to their homes and their phones. They need people. They need to laugh. They need to feel good. Teachers can facilitate that. In fact, I believe Maslow would argue they need that before learning can resume. The first week of school should be focused on self reflection, and establishing a personal learning plan for the school year, no matter the classroom format.
We must create engagement by first acknowledging the anxiety levels of our pupils, and then helping them design a pathway to success that relieves that anxiety. Whatever tasks are completed need to count towards a grade. Hold harmless was anything but harmless. When students are held accountable they respond appropriately because the recognition of a grade shows that what they do is important. And for the last few months, nothing they have done has been very important.
Messaging from the school district is vital. A video announcement from the superintendent welcoming students back to school that is shared on the first day will set the tone for the year and encourage students, teachers, and parents. A similar consistent message from each site principal that includes clearly identified expectations for teachers and students will make the difference between success and failure. We all need to be on the same page. Everybody.
To regain our parent’s trust in public education we must once again lead, and not just react, to our circumstances. True, we are governed by many forces that we cannot control. However, we can speak a message of hope for the future back into reality by once again presenting the opportunity that education provides. Education is our way out of this mess, and we should celebrate that by supporting our teachers and students while being open to the challenges brought on by a time of reformation.
Establish daily communication to build relationships between teachers, students, and parents
Acknowledge the students concerns and create a pathway plan for educational success
Positive messaging from Superintendent and Principals including clear expectations
Focus on the opportunities education provides and be flexible to the reformation