Monday, March 30, 2020

Great Expectations

I’d like to take a moment today to address the role of schools during our pandemic quarantine. There’s a story here, but not the one most people are talking about. So let’s have a little exposition.

Here are some ways that schools have been asked through the years to respond to changing needs and expectations:

In response to:                                                            Schools provide:

None of these are one-and-done additions to the educational mission of our schools. They require time to enact/complete, whether through daily operations, weekly or monthly meetings,  or annual training requirements. Add to this the national focus on high stakes standardized testing and you are adding more work, more forms to fill out, more meetings about data, more evaluations based on testing numbers.

Despite increasing expectations, our schools continue to work to establish community, nurture relationships, create learning experiences that can connect from grade to grade. I don’t think that most people in our community truly understand how much has been required of them. I would ask parents to look at the list above and tell me when schools would have had the time and resources to prepare a program for distance learning that works for all students regardless of family circumstances and educational ability.

I keep reading posts online from angry parents saying, “they should have been ready.” I look at what they are already doing and say, “How?”

Schools have always risen to the challenges that we have put to them. The list above gives you multiple examples. And they are working right now to respond to the present crisis. They are just like us, working hard to do the best they can in an unprecedented situation. Here is a heartfelt statement from a school principal in Minnesota:

I worry that this may come across to some as begrudging the additional work that is done for the care of children. It truly is not. It is asking the community to look plainly at the additional roles that schools have taken on because our society expected them to. Because there appeared to be no other choice. Because no one else stood up.

Perhaps because I am older than many current school parents, I have vivid memories of my mother’s stories about living through World War ll. She told me about how the whole country came together during a time of crisis. She described England during the Blitz, citizens enduring horrific trials but determined that there would “always be an England.” I look at the Covid-19 pandemic like that. It may look different on the surface but it threatens everything around us in a quite similar way.

How can we best respond to the work our school system is doing under such unimaginable conditions? By being partners. By standing up. By bearing the burden together. If you ever wondered how you would have acted during a great national emergency, this is it. Your children and your community need you to step up.

It is time to lay down our great expectations for what schools “should have done” and get to work in partnership with them, with calmer, kinder, more loving hearts.

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