My greatest joy as an educator is engaging with students, listening to their creative ideas, witnessing their “ah-ha!” moments, and jumping into the excitement that our collaborative and student-driven environment at Green Acres fosters. Ever since my pre-Green Acres days as a volunteer early childhood educator—and my time as a middle school teacher and mentor to high school students—I have always been inspired to do better, to open my eyes and heart, and to learn from the spark and energy of young people. This sentiment especially resonated me last Thursday, when I had the opportunity to engage with Middle School students as they reflected on the shocking events that unfolded at the Capitol Building the day before.
Through this uncertainty and turmoil, I share the sadness, frustration, and sense of loss our families have been experiencing with each day and hour students are not on campus. I also feel responsibility for the health, safety, and emotional well-being of our students and staff through this all. I sense the fear and hurt of those families whose students struggle emotionally with the distance and lack of human contact. Equally pressing is my concern and worry for those young people and their families whose compromised health and risk of exposure limit their options as we work to bring folks back onto campus. I wish there could be a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
Despite these challenges, in the short time since we have returned from winter break, Green Acres students have fully immersed themselves in at-home learning with a spirit and positivity that lifts us up. Special kudos go out to our passionate and talented staff, who have expertly re-established a rhythm and flow to maintain students’ interest and participation. While our teachers are doing excellent work to meet or exceed the demands of delivering quality, rigorous, and academically challenging work for students learning at home, we all yearn for the day when we may return to the type of in-person instruction that promotes sharing classroom materials and working and side-by-side (and that relieves staff from their role as mask and social distancing referees!).
It is sometimes difficult to peer into the future and imagine what lessons will have staying power from our pandemic experience. For now, I’m most interested in working toward welcoming all students back, in providing equitable experience and access for our friends who must remain at home pending a vaccine, and in learning, growing, and improving from each of these unique situations we encounter. My hope is that we retain our humor, compassion, and understanding for each others’ varying needs, and that we continue to work together to forge the best path forward, wherever that may lead us.