Creating Historical Memory Sept. 10, 2021
Believe the Best in People August 27, 2021
As a matter of practice, I try to believe the best in people. I did not start out that way and I had my share of years where cynicism played a role in my life (I believe we call that our twenties), but things really changed when I became an educator. Working with teens and later with younger children, I realized that if I was to be a trusted adult, I had to be able to not just believe in them but I had to encourage them to believe the same. Part of believing the best in people is being able to understand their story and where they are coming from. It is how children develop empathy and compassion and it has to be modeled. Over time, it has become embedded in my outlook on life and while I am sometimes disappointed, it has grounded me. More times than not, people rise to the occasion.
This is particularly important in the times we are now living. There is so much division and hostility that even stating this fact feels like a redundancy. People are frustrated, scared, angry, and hurting. Tolerance levels are shot. But as parents and educators, we have to remember that how we act and respond will be duly noted by our children who watch and hear everything we say and do. If we model patience, they will learn patience. If we practice empathy and kindness, they will be inclined toward empathy and kindness. The tone of our voice is more critical than ever, whether be in the words we speak or the words we write.
With the stream of COVID notices at school and the rise of cases in the area, it is easy to succumb to malaise. But we can’t. When we stop believing the best in people, it means we are giving up on people and that is a line we must try not to cross. Parents are doing the best they can. Teachers are doing the best they can. Children are doing the best they can. When harsh or abrupt words are used, it is easier to be offended than to listen past the tone and to try to understand what is happening.
Every day, I see teachers and administrators working hard to give children what they need. Every day, I receive notes and words of support and encouragement from parents. And every day, I see children thriving amidst the challenges we face.
I have no grand solutions to what we are facing because there aren’t any. Only time can heal what we are going through now. In the meantime, appreciate the special moments and celebrate the normalcy that still exists. And, please try to believe the best in people and act accordingly.
When There Ain’t No Routine August 20, 2021
With two weeks behind us, we find ourselves continuing to pivot and adjust to whatever comes our way. We have had quarantines, carpool backups, and a tropical storm to contend with. It is a challenge in large part because human beings are creatures of habit. We don’t want to be continually surprised. All of us rely upon routine- adults and children alike. Routine allows for a predictability that we depend on. We have a baseline and when surprises arise we can deal with them and then return to the everyday norms. So when routine is continually disrupted as it is right now, we feel on edge and get frustrated with so many things that are beyond our control.
I wish we could snap our fingers and make it alright. The lack of routine is taking a toll on our children, our parents, our staff, and our administrators.
At school, we are adjusting to this reality. We are beginning the executive function training to help children plan and better predict their days. Homebound is becoming a normative part of the support network for individual students who are quarantined. We are building schedules for when classes must go remote. Our counselor continues to survey the staff to be sure that children who seem to be struggling are being looked after. And we are working hard to get carpool to a point where people know what to expect. We can’t control all the disruptions we face but we can provide our children and ourselves with tools to manage. Snacks help too.
At home, parents should pay attention to routine as well- family dinner time, homework time, play time, etc. By setting up a routine in the home, children will get the grounding they will need to make it through these next few months and beyond. If children know there is a time where they can share their day, it creates a sense of stability. As a parent who has often had things to work on after quitting time, my wife and I made family dinner sacred time. It made all the difference and was more important as our kids got older.
My personal advice may seem to be somewhat corny but bear with me. Everyone is trying their best. Be patient. Believe the best in people because you don’t know how impacted the person next to you has been on a given day and what they are going through at work or in their personal lives. If we can do nothing else, make that a routine.
As the great crooner Frank Sinatra once bellowed, “That’s life, that’s what people say. I just have to pick myself up and get back in the race.” In shorthand, please hang in there.