After a very long week of Hurricane Harvey ripping through Southeast Texas, it is time for educators to return to work. Many are referring to this time as getting back to normal. Unfortunately, for thousands of people in the Houston area, what they knew as normal is no longer their normal. I watched on TV how families in my school district were being rescued well into the night. Families with babies and young children walked for miles in raging floodwaters, praying they would find safety. As I watched, I kept thinking… these are our kids. How do we accept them back to school and “do school”?
In the past couple of days, my mind went to our staff members, many of whom live in the area and experienced the same desperation as our children. How do they, after losing their homes, return to work and be the support our students need?
If I were Principal, this is what I would do on the first day back with faculty and staff.
Step 1: Focus on Gratefulness
I would tell my faculty and staff that first and foremost, I am grateful that our district did not lose any staff members to the floods. Not one staff member lost their life in the horrific flooding. Many lost homes, many lost cars… but not one life was lost.
I would then have staff, in their small group by grade level, discuss their individual gratefulness. For what are you grateful? Do you have your life? Did your family members survive? Have people come to your aid if you suffered losses during this time?
After they discuss this as a small group, I would ask them to share out.
Each of us had different experiences. We have been through a very difficult time, but we have also experienced some blessings in the storm. We must focus on the blessings, for the blessings give us hope. We must believe there is hope (for us and our students) in order to be the strength our students need when they return.
Know that we are family. We will help each other get through this. We are much stronger together.
Step 2: The Great Commission
I now challenge you all to think about why you entered the field of education. Why did you decide to teach?
Give them 10 minutes to reflect and write their thoughts down on paper.
Ask staff members to share out and then discuss as a group.
Most people decide to enter education because they want to make a difference in the world. They want to impact our world. They want to better our future. There is no time better than this to answer the call. In a couple of weeks, we are going to welcome back children who are scared, children who remember riding the backs of their parents in the cold and raging waters, children who may have had thoughts of dying in the floods. How you respond to them will most definitely shape their future.
I challenge each of us, to dig deep within ourselves to count our blessings and deep dig within ourselves to fulfill our purpose right now by being the strength and support our students need; for it will define how they respond to this great challenge in their lives.
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.