Rigor or Relationships?

Many educators in Texas have returned to work and it’s shocking because it seems like we just started our Summer Break yesterday. Some teachers have recovered, many have not, but we can all agree that most are overly anxious about what’s to come. As we watch the news and listen to the reports of the numbers for Covid starting to rise again, we know we need to be prepared for the number of changes coming our way. The one thing we are very certain of is the fact that students are returning face to face. The question is, “What extreme measures are we trying this time around to ensure safety?” and “How do we develop meaningful relationships with students and vice versa if we’re being programmed to be afraid of each other due to the “cooties”?”

I’ve spent countless hours in professional development and staff meetings this summer as well as many other summers that have focused on curriculum. Brad Johnson (education guru) has been doing tee shirt giveaways this summer and he has a tee shirt that says, “Love what you teach, but love who you teach more.” While I have always focused on relationships and am not afraid to attribute my success as an educator to building and sustaining relationships, I’m confused as to why we are not having more conversations like the message on the tee shirt in this moment. We are using every minute of meetings to push rigor versus relationships. How can we continue to suggest we are effectively teaching students we don’t know?

As I sit processing things, the first thing I try to remind my peers is the idea of having three groups of Kindergartens enter the building at the same time. We have our new, five year olds. We have our first graders that will enroll as a second year student but physically enter a school building for the first time. And we have our second graders that don’t fully understood that school is actually nine months with fewer breaks than they’re accustomed to having. How are we going to address each of these groups during the first month of school?

The next group of students that definitely worry me are our students with special needs. Due to weakened immune systems and other health conditions, many of them participated in remote learning last year. After 1.5 years, how do we acclimate them back into a more structured learning environment? And how do you teach that one kid that was in class last year that the teacher student ratio is not 1:1 in real life?

My next group is teachers. We’re changing while we’re changing. We’ve had very limited stability the last two years and now we’re being asked to learn at least two new systems, complete an entire course (equivalent to going to grad school for a year), protect our students, protect ourselves and still make the students comfortable while teaching them a rigorous curriculum. And administrators have questions about the absentee rates. 🤔

The last group I worry about are families. Each of these groups and their adjustments will have an impact on their families. All of these factors will impact the home. If we don’t focus on the relationship first, we are going to create a group of life long learners with no real passion for progress or purpose. They will learn to go with the flow to keep from disrupting the row. Not good enough!

If you’re a parent or educator, what changes are you making in preparation for a positive and prosperous school year? Drop some ideas below. 💡

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