This past spring brought immense challenges for everyone. We quickly needed to adapt to teaching and learning remotely. Children were not allowed to go to school, the park, or the playground to socialize with other kids. Families were expected to take on the role of teachers overnight to help their children focus on their online class meetings, assignments, and sanity. Educators were feeling a constant dread of whether they were doing too much or not doing enough. Why put a heavy focus on academics when everyone's safety and basic needs were not met?
There were also beautiful things that happened amongst all of this. As soon as school was announced to be closed for two weeks (and later changed to the rest of the school year), our PTA, staff, and community members joined forces to put together food drives to ensure our students and families had access to groceries and lunch while the district was setting up their food delivery system. We did two drive-around parades to safely celebrate and see our school community. I got to know my students and families even better - being able to see their homes through our video calls to being a source of support and positivity during these difficult times. As we embark on a new school year, I want to write special messages to my fellow students, families, and educators.
Dear My Students,
I am so proud of you and the growth that you made this past year. Every day, you taught me how to be a better teacher for YOU and for our class. You each believe in yourself as a student and as a person. I feel incredibly disappointed that we did not get the opportunity to finish the kindergarten year and celebrate your accomplishments, but we made the most of our situation and that goes to show how strong and flexible you all are.
I hope that you will always remember the good memories. When you look back on your time in kindergarten, I hope that you remember how much Ms. Nguon loved and cared about you, and pushed you to be better and do better. Ms. Nguon tried her best to connect with you when school closed, from seeing you in our class meetings & video calls every week to checking in with your families to make sure everything was okay. You hold a special place in my heart and I have no doubt that you will each continue to spread your positive attitudes, do amazing things, and change the world.
Dear My Families,
Thank you. I am grateful for your patience, understanding, and communication. You found ways to make sure that you and your child connected with me every week. You needed to take care of many things but always made sure to keep me updated on how things were going for you and your family. I truly felt that our relationships became stronger because we needed to depend on each other to support your child. I appreciate each and every one of you. Please don't hesitate to contact me - I would love to stay connected in your lives.
Do what you can. At the end of the day, your child's happiness and basic needs are the most important. It was exciting for me to see all of the learning happening at home - from having your child learn how to bake to having your child work on your garden. In this next school year, lean on your child's next teacher and let them know of any questions or concerns that you have, big and small. We want to help you as much as we can.
Dear My Colleagues,
Relationships with our students and families are most important. While all else may be a headache, we should always center ourselves on building our relationship with every student and family. For my class, we needed to take a week to re-learn Black Lives Matter and make sure that everyone had space to speak and share their feelings about the news. We needed to have moments when I just sang to my students and talked about other parts of our lives - non-academic topics and issues. When or if we go back to the classroom, we want to make sure that strong foundation is there.
Teaching, especially at the elementary level, is not meant to be virtual. We should focus on what we can control. We will get frustrated and extend ourselves to others but we need to take care of ourselves, too. Stick to a schedule and make sure to add in your self-care times and activities. Seek support from your grade level team and other staff members. We can't do it all and we can't fix all of the inequities in our education system, but we can do the best that we can while also attending to ourselves and our needs.
So... here we go. I hope that our routines and lives can go back to how they were as soon as possible. Until then, let's stay as safe and healthy as we can, and look after each other.