In the 40 years I’ve worked in schools, nothing even comes close to this set of circumstances.
Tomorrow, we will start doing school in a totally different way. We are a face-to-face organization that has incorporated digital tools into teaching and learning to varying degrees and in a variety of different ways over the past decade. But, we have depended on the fact that thousands of students will walk into schools and classrooms each day and interact with adults and with one another. All of that has changed until at least April 24, the date through which Governor Hogan has extended the closing of schools. So for the next four weeks, we will work with students in ways that many could not have imagined just a month ago.
You may be thinking right now that by using this quote—“This is an extraordinary event in our history,”—Jack Smith has shown he has a firm grasp of the obvious. The words, however, are part of the following message I received from a Montgomery County Public Schools teacher a couple of days ago. When I asked for permission to share the message, the teacher agreed, but asked to remain anonymous.
Hi Dr. Smith,
I just wanted to say there is no way we can get wrong what we are doing with the best of intentions and the trust in our knowledge to always do what is best for our students. I believe people understand that it is not going to be perfect, but as long as we are flexible and realistic, we'll all try to make the best of it.
This is an extraordinary event in our history—we all need the time to do what we can to the best of our ability, and the grace to accept without judgment what each of us is able to accomplish.
I hope you and all those you care for stay well and safe.
These words provide a way for us to understand how to move forward; to do what Theodore Roosevelt said, “to do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” This teacher’s message gives me insight into how to think about what I am doing, what others are doing, and what we are doing collectively while assuming the best of intentions, extending grace without judgment, and being flexible and realistic. This is what I can do or not; it’s up to me.
A few days ago, after a long, difficult meeting where 15 people were on a conference line, and five of us were in the conference room 15 or 20 feet apart, one of my colleagues commented to those of us physically present, “We must keep in mind that this is a once-in-a-hundred-years event.” It was a reference to the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. I responded, “Why did it have to happen during my 100 years!” I acted like I was making a joke, while in reality, I was feeling quite sorry for myself because of the unexpected and chaotic new world we are all living in. When I returned to my office, I found this teacher’s message. The message helped me reframe my thinking, and gave me courage to move forward with the best of intentions to do what is best for students.
Thank you to a fine colleague for a message of encouragement, wisdom and hope. To each member of our community, thank you for what you are doing for our students. We are all in this together, and together we will provide students with a quality learning experience, albeit different from the one they had (and will have again in the future) in the physical classroom.