As we begin the spring term, I want to thank our teachers and the many supportive parents for helping us keep the children at the forefront of our efforts each week.
Last spring, our teachers had to retrofit in-person curricula for a virtual environment without any warning and adopt new approaches for virtual teaching – all while living with the same worries and concerns you experienced. Then came the fall, with the question of whether buildings would reopen hanging over every school. Concerns about the virus were mixed with worries that students weren’t getting as much through online learning and program modifications as they did before the pandemic. The vacillating caseloads of the past winter also introduced the concern that the light at the end of the tunnel might still be somewhat distant. And still, teachers and kids arrive every day and work hard to maintain normality in a context that is anything but normal in an active elementary school.
While the world continues to be incredibly stressful for many of us this year, our Matthews Hall teachers and staff have coped by having an almost myopic view of what they need to do each day – which is focus only on our students and meeting their needs right now, this year, in the current moment. With all the external stressors, expectations, and pressures, they can’t do more than their best under uniquely unique circumstances. No teacher ever signed-up to be epidemiologist, chief sanitizer, bouncer, or organizational psychologist!
And that’s why I am so grateful that each of them continues to focus on the school day under challenging circumstances for every family. The one difference being that adults working with children all day every day are serving “clients” that need to be taught responsibility without becoming fearful, the reality of things without living in a state of apathy, and the path forward without succumbing to a sense of dread. Our teachers continue to do this in spite of being weighed down themselves by the tediousness of mandatory masks, the well-nigh impossible feat of physical distancing, and a burgeoning “epidemic” of OCD among children and adults. Teaching children whose voices are muffled and hard to hear coming from faces with wide eyes, but smiles you can’t see (!) is not a recipe for easy connection between human beings.
So, while we are all working hard to do our very best under less-than-ideal circumstances, let’s bear in the mind that an appreciation for our teachers is one of the best ways to inspire them in their work with our kids.
As a school, we don’t have to solve the crisis of the pandemic or its economic or social implications worldwide, but we do have to connect with kids by caring about them first, and teaching them second. When we commit ourselves to doing these two things well, everything else can get worked out in time.
We have to continue to have fun, be creative and find ways to do the same things as we’ve always done. It’s about relationships, having fun on the job, loving the kids and making sure we are still inspiring people. We must focus on service and stay positive.
And, of course, that can only happen if we are taking care of the people who are taking care of the kids. That’s actually how effective schools work best.
Thank you to each parent who understands this maxim and cheers on their child’s teacher every day!
Ric Anderson, Head of School