In the wake of this week’s insurrection and breach of the capitol, administrative teams across the country gathered to discuss their districts’ responses. A friend and colleague of mine shared her recent experience at one such meeting with me. This senior-level administrator was so spot-on in her thinking that I feel compelled to share.
During the meeting, the team immediately launched into planning mode as to how they could support teachers in talking to kids about what happened. Principals offered to pull resources they could email out to teachers. Other administrators took charge of building a spreadsheet to compile documents. Still others questioned if they should take more time and establish a formal lesson to implement.
My very wise colleague stopped the discussion in its tracks. “We can’t resource our way out of this,” she said. “We are either there for our kids or we’re not.”
This insightful leader understood that educating for the crisis du jour requires more than a google search or a professional development session. The crises we’ve experienced over the last year are innumerable. Our kids don’t need teachers to respond to the latest catastrophe with a spreadsheet full of resources, a list of websites, or a canned lesson plan on the topic. They need our compassion and understanding.
As I write this, I can hear the doubters now…”So you just want me to wing it?” or “I wasn’t trained as a counselor,” or “I am not equipped to deal with this.” To that I respond, “Who exactly is equipped to deal with this?” There are no individuals waiting in the wings with backgrounds in discussing insurrection. Similarly, there are no “experts'' at the moment who can guide us on the best way to teach during a pandemic. And whenever the next catastrophe occurs (which it certainly will), we can’t count on having time to be trained in the proper response. Like it or not, responding to crisis is part of today’s job description for educators.
How then should we approach these challenging conversations? With reflection, care and support. I’m not here to tell you the best way to talk to kids in a crisis - there are plenty of “resources” for that. Instead, I want you to know that YOU are powerful.
YOU can support students by showing them understanding and compassion. YOU can let kids know that you don’t have all the answers but you will listen and care. YOU can reassure them that they are safe and respected when they are with you.
You don’t need your principal to email you an article. You don’t need to stay up all night researching the issue and crafting a beautiful lesson. You don’t need to wait until you are “trained” to be there for kids.
YOU teach children, not subjects. YOU have greater capacity and impact than you can ever imagine. YOU CAN DO THIS. Because if not you...who???