Never could we have imagined that the 2020-2021 school year would start the way it has. If you had asked me about the start of school this time last year, I would have described the great anticipation of students’ return, jumping back into learning, providing new and innovative programs for students, collaborating with colleagues and more.
As I have thought about the start of the school year this fall, I would still say so many of the same things. Just the context has changed. Does that mean I feel less joy in my service of students and teachers? Not at all. What it does mean is that I, and all of us in Arlington ISD, have just had to learn to teach and lead in a time that requires high levels of adaptability.
As you all know, I love to read. True to form, I recently read an article published by Forbes called “Four Truths for Leading in Uncertain Times.”
In this article, the author, Kathy Perkins, shares productive insights that I believe all of us can benefit from as we navigate our work with students and each other.
Don’t become paralyzed by uncertainty
As human beings, our brains (and emotions) like and prefer predictability. We feel comfort in being able to anticipate what is to come and try to readily adapt based on that predictability.
During these uncertain times we have to lean into one another and leverage the information that we have to make the best decisions we can, even if that information is not complete.
What we can’t do is to become paralyzed with indecision or inaction. This pertains not only to logistics and protocol, but also to meeting our students’ learning needs. Many students may have gaps in their learning or struggle as they learn new concepts. Our goal is to do all we can to understand those needs quickly and to address them in the most effective ways possible.
Find stability in the chaos
With everything going on in the world, our students and families need us to be a stable force for good. Students will look to their teachers and school staff for leadership and assurance. As we navigate these times together, I encourage us all to establish anchors to find steady footing.
Provide routine to your students. Be a positive force for optimism and good.
Students (and your colleagues) will appreciate the confidence this will provide them as they work through their own questions and potential insecurities.
Learn to live with ambiguity
Life is ambiguous. Challenges and crises only magnify this aspect of life and shine a spotlight on it. Effective educators and leaders accept this reality and learn to move forward courageously.
As teachers, we can teach students to be agile with life’s challenges and to lean into their values, skill sets and gifts to positively impact the world around them while learning to simultaneously live themselves in the uncertain environment found in the world.
Accept life’s paradoxes
Wise leaders understand that all situations hold both positives and negatives. There is not only one solution to all challenges. Sometimes the answer includes a “but or an and.” As we embrace these contradictions, we can learn to become more resilient. Often the most difficult of circumstances is laced with a silver lining. I can think of many positive things that have come from this most unique challenge we have all had to face together over the last six months.
Welcome to the 2020-2021 school year! I am honored to be a part of the Arlington ISD team and to work alongside talented, optimistic and capable individuals such as you. I look forward to supporting you and our students as we embark on this unique journey. And, I have complete confidence that we will meet our challenges with great success. Arlington ISD has always always risen to the occasion and we shall again!