I would describe my educational leadership style as one that is mainly focused on educating each child that has been placed on my campus. Right now… post-Harvey… my leadership would change drastically. Harvey caused such devastation and was such a traumatic event, that for this time right now, “education” must take a back seat.
Instead of focusing on lesson frames on the board; instead of focusing on lesson plans; instead of focusing on scope and sequence; instead of focusing on state assessment preparation, we must focus on our babies. Today, I watched several news stories, from Good Morning America, to our local news broadcasts students from my district recount what happened to them after floodwaters rose quickly and fiercely. I watched most of our students recount their experience with tears in their eyes and sometimes tears flowing down their young faces.
Our students are not returning to us with clear minds ready to learn. Our students are not returning to us well-rested and ready to focus on learning. Some of our students are returning to us hungry, homeless, and in some cases, hopeless. This is not the time to focus on “teaching lessons”; it is the time to teach our students about moral citizenship. It’s the time to show human emotions. It’s the time to show them support. It’s the time to show them that we truly care about them.
When students return, let’s put aside the state-mandated curricular lessons and let our hearts lead us. Hug your students. Greet them with a smile. Start out slow for the first couple of weeks and play games that are simply fun. Give them a break from their crying, frustrated, and stressed parents. Give them time, while in our buildings, to feel safe; to know they will be fed two meals; to know that they will be able to smile and laugh; to know that they can forget, for just a few hours, that they don’t have a home anymore. Give them time to just be kids.
The time will come to pick the curriculum back up and go after it with full force, but if we don’t give them time to heal, I’m afraid we will do them more harm. Let’s lead from our heart right now.
Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.