By Kurt Becker, principal at Cuyuna Range Elementary and president-elect of Northern Division
About the most ludacris question we could ask anybody in education these days is “What’s new”? EVERYTHING is new, that’s what. In just eight short days, educators across Minnesota did something that had never been done before with little to no training in how to do it. They totally changed the way we teach and learn. Necessity is the mother of all invention, and our teachers and support staff have invented something pretty amazing.
We, as administrators, have had to lead the way for this to happen. It has been challenging, and the challenges will likely continue. We know there is still much work to be done. But how amazing has it been to have a front row seat for this historical accomplishment! As we continue to educate students who aren’t in our buildings, we need to consider the question that has been posed many times: what can we, as administrators, do to support our teachers through this?
One answer that pops up often is that we need to continue to lead. It is up to us to help our teachers get better each and every day of distance learning. This is difficult, because we have no experience with this ourselves, but we need to continue to send the message that “we got this” as we provide our teachers with opportunities to succeed everyday.
Another answer to this question is that we, as principals, need to keep our expectations realistic. Distance learning is not a good deal for our teachers or our kids, but it is reality. We need to keep our heads in this reality and not push our staff members to do things they aren’t ready to do. This is an emotional time, and many of our teachers are holding on by a thread right now. Let’s not push them over the edge with our lofty expectations.
What else can we be doing to support teachers? How about just being there for them. Let’s check in with each and every one of them often just to see how they’re doing. When we ask them if there is anything they need, we need to mean it. They need a lot from us right now. They need direction, encouragement, validation that what they are doing is making a difference for kids, and someone to lean on when it appears that things are unraveling. Not only are they strapped with the stresses of distance learning, but many are also afraid for themselves and their loved ones at this uncertain time. Let’s be their rock.
I could go on and on about the countless ways that we can support teachers. But I want to pose another question. What can we do to support each other through this? In front of our staff and community members, we have to show that we are strong and unwavered as we navigate these uncharted waters. That’s what leaders do. But, are you a little uncertain, a little worried, a little afraid? It’s okay to answer yes to any or all of those questions. You’re not alone. However, if there is one thing that I have learned in my seven years as a member of MESPA, it’s that none of us is ever really alone. For many of us, we are islands in our school and in our district, but we truly are surrounded by the best possible resources to get us through any crisis; each other.
One thought that’s helped me over the past few weeks is that many of our teachers have been forced to learn how to use new tools and strategies. Many of those teachers will continue to use those tools and strategies when things get back to normal, making them even more effective. Our kids will benefit from that, and that thought has kept me going through this.
Hang in there, gang. It won’t always be easy and it won’t always be fun, but we have each other. We got this.