There is no question that we are in absolutely unprecedented times. Naturally, in situations like these, we turn to the leaders in our schools, districts, states, and nation that exhibit empathy, guidance, and support. If we don’t find those things, we have two choices. We can step up and become the leaders that people desperately need, or we can shut down and become afraid of the uncertainty.
What is needed now is the assurance that our national leaders will have our backs no matter what. I recently heard a speech that was meant to inspire teachers and educational leaders, saying that “we can do hard things.” I want to challenge that. Every teacher and school administrator is doing all they can—and then some—to continue to provide educational services to students and support families with the odds stacked against them. We could have never imagined having to work from home for the rest of the school year or to deliver instruction to all students in an empty school building with no real warning or preparation. So when we are told “we can do hard things,” we don’t feel inspired to work harder. We feel like what we have already worked so hard to do doesn’t really matter.
It is hard to go into the school building to prepare work for our students. We are heartbroken and miss them. The hallways positively echo with the silence and stillness that have been left behind as our beloved students stay home. Our once bubbling, happy school that we all looked forward to arriving at every morning has become a shell. But we still go in every day and do those hard things.
It is hard to stay in constant contact with our families—families that now have to find a new balance, a new normal, and new ways to communicate with each other and the school. We struggle with a lack of public and home internet access, and even reliable cellular phone service. We live for the times when our phones ring during office hours just to hear our students’ voices or when we see pictures of students working on their school work, even though those phone calls and pictures make us sad at the same time. But we still call and get excited, and we do these hard things.
It is hard to provide an equitable education to every student. We pour our hearts and souls into creating paper packets that, no matter what you do, could never replace the personal care and loving atmosphere our students experience in person at school. With no home or public internet access, we have no other choice. But we still support our students’ learning and do these hard things.
It is hard to think over and over about how we told our students “See you after spring break,” not knowing that would turn into, “See you next fall.” It has shattered us to tell our seniors and their families that so many big events they have looked forward to for 18 years are canceled or are going to look nothing like what they pictured. But we stay hopeful and do these hard things.
School administrators and teachers can and are doing hard things every minute of every day of our new “normal.” We are keeping our students excited about learning and engaged in their school community no matter what material or format we use. We are providing the best education we can in the time and place we are in. I have no doubt that we will keep doing hard things when we come back next year and get everystudent back on track equitably.
And no, I do not have all of the answers, but no one does. We are not doing this perfectly, but no one is. This is hard. This is really hard. We don’t need to be told that we can do hard things. We already are.
Meghan Redmond is the assistant principal at Chief Ivan Blunka School, a K–12 school in New Stuyahok, AK. New Stuyahok is off the road system and only accessible by air or boat. She has worked in rural Alaska for 10 years. Meghan is the 2019 NASSP National Assistant Principal of the Year. Follow her on Twitter (@alaska22redmond) and the Chief Ivan Blunka School on Facebook at the “CIBS Eagles Fan Page.”