I am motivated by a blog post last week by Texas Superintendent, Jill Siler. Superintendent Siler talked about the various options facing public education in Texas regarding what school will look like next school year. There are many options with various plans within each option. This week, I am compelled to focus on how we should proceed with creating our plans.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced educators to redesign education. The one thing that is certain right now is that we CANNOT do education the way we’ve always done education. In Texas, we cannot open our doors and welcome all of our students and teachers back into the building. We can open our doors, but only to a small number. Currently, the guidelines are that no more than 11 people can be in a room at a time. We are to keep 6 feet of social distance at all times…. on the bus, in the cafeteria, in the gym, in the hallways, in the restrooms… everywhere.
This is in no way “normal” for us. Thinking of educational life in this manner, I think about the losses we’ll encounter. I think back to my principal days. If I were a principal during this time, I would miss dearly the morning hugs from students as they arrive for the day. I would miss opening car doors and helping students into their cars at the end of the day, getting more hugs as my little ones headed home. Again, this “normal” is gone.
So, with these changes… how in the world do we begin to redesign education? We know what’s most important when it comes to educating our students; however, sometimes we can get lost focusing on the education and forget the characteristics we need to exemplify in the midst of the redesign.
There are more uncertainties than certainties at this time. This can be crippling for those of us who like to plan. It is challenging to those of us who like being in control of all situations and having a strong ability to attack problems with solutions and move forward quickly. During this time, we must “put on” patience. We must solve the problems that are facing us that day… because it is likely that it will change the next day. We must be patient with the state as they release guidelines. We must be patient with your leaders as they carry this heavy burden. We must be patient with your team as they ask questions for which you have no answers. We must be patient with parents who are frustrated. We must be patient with our students who are going through their own measure of trauma. Be patient.
A love for your students, staff members, team members, parents, and community members will drive you to make decisions that put their safety as priority. As much as we all want to be back to our normal, if we truly love all of our stakeholders, that love will drive us to decisions that protect them because we really want the best for them. In this instance, leading from the heart may work better than leading from the head.
We MUST have faith in God that He will give us the wisdom to make the right decisions. We must have faith in our leadership. We must have faith in our leader’s leadership. We must also have faith in our team members… that we can accomplish so much more when we’re working together. This faith can also exemplify itself in a positive attitude. If we have faith that we can all do this… we begin to work as if we can overcome this barrier.
Be kind to yourself. During these times, the world is watching. Sometimes, the world is quick to judge and speak ill of educators because, quite simply, they can. There are thousands of people ready to judge our decisions… don’t join them. Be kind with yourself. None of us gets up each morning and thinks about how we can ruin the lives of our students. Will we get it right every time? Absolutely not, but we certainly are trying to get it right each time. Realize that and be kind to yourself.
Finally, we must attack this challenge ONE DAY AT A TIME. The present day is all we have. Get up each morning with a renewed mind, a clear mind, and a positive outlook. We. Can. Do. This.
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Paula Patterson is a Superintendent of Schools who shares practical points on leadership.