#HCSD1 – A New Day

The first day of school will be a very different experience.  It won’t be the first day we’ve come to expect; it won’t be a typical first day.

First of all, thank you to our teachers.  Your unwavering skill and dedication have our district prepare for eLearning this week and, hopefully, hybrid very soon.  Teachers are essential workers, and you have responded to this challenge.

Our support staff and administrators have been working endless hours preparing for multiple instructional modes.  The team has rebuilt schedules, and class lists shifted 3,000+ students into an online academy and managed daily changes in conditions.  Our bus drivers will assist with classroom preparations for hybrid; our food service team is ready for delivery this week and boxed meals in hybrid.  It’s a new day in how we provide support and services.

Finally, to our parents and community, thank you.  Our schools are the cornerstone of our Hilliard Community.  Covid-19 has disrupted all our lives; the impact from a school perspective is significant.  We appreciate your patience with ever-changing plans and short notification periods.  We share in your frustration and understand your desire for consistency.

I wish I could promise consistency in our school schedule, but that’s not possible.  Our motivation is to get students in school, with their teachers, as soon as safely possible.  Our commitment is to be open with our communications and transparent in our decision-making process.  We will change when state orders and public health officials dictate; we remain student-focused and intentional in our decisions.

This isn’t the first day we hoped for, but it is our first day.  As a teacher shared last week, “We’ve got this.”  Let’s not lament what’s lost but celebrate what we have.  

Teachers and students will connect beginning tomorrow.  We start a journey together –  a journey that will have ups and downs.  Our Power of the Team, our values, will keep us on course.  Together, we’ve got this! 

The Amazing Power of Grace

As school districts across the country embark on a new, uncharted journey, each of us must embrace the need for grace.  It is amazing how grace –  courteous goodwill – changes our perspective.

The COVID-19 Crisis has put all of us, from the most discipline to the hyperemotional, on edge.  Our lives have been disrupted in unimaginable ways.  Yesterday’s routine, daily activities are only memories.  A friendly hug when we see an old friend, a firm handshake with a new acquaintance, or simply grabbing a cup of coffee with a colleague are remembrances from a seemingly different era.  

For schools, small reading groups on the carpet, a student section cheering at a football game, or the joyful noise from a packed lunchroom will be eerily missing from the school experience.

As we prepare for the unknown, as we respond to rapidly evolving information about this virus, uncertainty and change will be part of our school life.  No one week will be like the next; schedules, bus times, and instructional tools will be in a continuous flux state.  School officials will do their best; we will communicate what we know when we know it.

Keeping our students safe, keeping them in school is going to require flexibility and adaptability.  For families that depend on regular childcare, this year is going to be stressful and exhausting.  A single class or a school building could be placed into eLearning, quarantined, with short notice.  Games may be suddenly canceled for students, and teachers may need to shift assignments due to changing learning modalities.

We must respond to each challenge with compassion and empathy.  A school district’s changes are not from lack of planning or communication; everyone is doing their best during an unprecedented global pandemic. Moreover, on our end, our teachers and staff will give our students and parents the same grace – the same courteous goodwill.

We are all seemingly feel lost as we respond to this time’s events, but we will all be found as we work together.

Purpose-Driven Educators

“This isn’t what I signed up for.”

While just background noise on the television, I heard a reporter interviewing a classroom teacher. The teacher, holding a sign that read “No Vaccine, No School!” spoke with impulsive emotion.

Unlike doctors, educators don’t take an oath before taking the job. After years of training, educators are granted a license by the state and hired by a district. Nevertheless, there is a covenant – an implicit promise – that elite educators keep. We serve our students; we take all reasonable means to prepare the next generation.  In short, we stand up and own our actions; we make a difference every day.

Just two short years ago, our district conducted a full-scale safety drill with police and first responders. With colleagues made-up to mimic wounded victims and others blockading doors to keep out a violent intruder – the exercise was frightening. We didn’t sign-up to be educators to prevent a deadly shooting in our schools, but we answer the call to be prepared for the unimaginable.  We pray our training will never be necessary, but we are ready to respond with skill.

A well-documented story unfolded just three years ago when a student was discovered plotting and recruiting co-conspirators, for a mass shooting event. We didn’t sign-up to foil violent incidents, but we answer the bell to prevent tragedy. We’ve had sharpshooters on buildings during homecoming football games and undercover law enforcement at pep rallies. As educators, we do what’s required of us. We serve and keep our students safe.

Our commitment to our students’ social-emotional needs is codified in our policies, plans, and goals. Mental health and well-being are targeted focus areas- a focus equal to academic progress and physical health. Teachers are counselors; they are guides on a student’s journey. Many didn’t “sign-up” to be a wellness counselor, but it is now an essential job requirement.

We prepare our students for success in a rapidly changing world. Our jobs – our commitment as educators – have new demands every year. Covid-19 has rocked our world. This virus is going to be part of our lives for years to come. Nearly every aspect of normal-life has been disrupted; we have all been impacted in many ways.

There is nothing fair about what we are facing today; we are all experiencing a loss. We grieve for the security and certainty we crave. Some people are fearful of the future, while others more willingly accept a certain level of risk. Professional adults are struggling with reality – and now, more than ever, our students need us.

No one signed-up for living in a world with Covid-19; we are amid a global pandemic. Our implicit promise – as professionals – is that we serve our students. We take every reasonable step to meet their social, emotional, and academic needs. We act with purpose and skill; we are meticulous in our planning and steadfast with our safety precautions. We demand social distancing, barriers, and masks. As professionals, we step-up and answer the bell.  Our community has a renewed appreciation for our profession.  I continue to be impressed with the work of our teachers.  As one teacher said to me today, “we’ve got this.”

I didn’t sign up for this, but I will do what is required of me during a time of great crisis.  We are purpose-driven and focused on children.