During autumn evenings, I like to sit on the front porch, surrounded by quiet, considering the events of the day.  For the last few nights, as I sat in my rocking chair, I noticed a faint blinking red light off to the north that eventually crossed in front of the house at around 30,000 feet and then disappeared into the distant horizon of the east.  After the third night of watching the light travel the same path at around the same time, I got curious.  It turns out that the plane is a regularly scheduled flight from Chicago to Charlotte.  It takes off around 6:20 in Chicago and lands around 9:30 in Charlotte.  A little after 8:30 each evening, it appears in the night sky.  It caught my attention because of its consistency. 

Those of us that struggle with overorganization often crave consistency, predictability, and routines.  There is an unquestionable comfort in being able to anticipate what’s next.  There is comfort in having a well thought through plan.  It is an understatement to say that I function better in this kind of environment.  From a regular morning routine to a schedule for my days, I crave the comfort of consistency.  

As we have started back to school, we are all settling into the new routines associated with face to face instruction.  Morning arrival routines, meeting routines, and dismissal routines are all becoming part of our typical day again.  For most of our students, this also includes new afternoon routines and homework.  Like adults, many students need the comfort of predictability in their lives.  For the last six months, they have settled into a routine that did not include having to get out of bed and get ready for school.  The sooner we can reestablish these patterns, the easier it will be for them to adapt to the new normal of school life.  

Changing our routines can be difficult.  Tonight is the first time I have written one of these posts in the evening since I began writing them after students were sent home in March.  I settled in and enjoyed writing time in the mornings with a cup of coffee in my hand.  Writing before the sun came up was the norm, but I now realize that my mornings are quite full, and I have shifted my routine to write in the evenings after dinner. I’m not sure I like it!  I am reminded that settling into a new habit can be a struggle for some of us. If you are dealing with a child struggling with the new routine of school, I encourage you to give them a little space and a bit of grace.  They may need some time to embrace it.  Most of them need routines, they need consistency, and they need a little time to figure it out.  

While I am struggling with some parts of this new process, I have fallen in love with other features.  My new favorite part of the day is greeting our students and watching them enter the adventure of the day with wide-eyed enthusiasm and excitement.  I find myself in the evenings looking forward to the mornings and the experience that awaits.  As crazy as it sounds, I love the car line, the good mornings, and the hellos.  I have to remind myself that while change can be scary and I still hate having my plans and routines altered without warning, sometimes the new opportunities are amazing.  Just like the opportunity to greet our incredible kids every day!

Important Work!

“There are people in this country who work hard every day
Not for fame or fortune do they strive
But the fruits of their labor are worth more than their pay
And it’s time a few of them were recognized.”

-Alabama (Forty Hour Week)

Growing up in the rural south, I spent many Saturdays in my dad’s white Chevy pickup truck traveling the roads between town and my grandfather’s farm on Fines Creek.  Once you got out of town, the radio didn’t work well, and dad only had one cassette tape, so we listened to the same Alabama album every Saturday.  The opening lines from Forty Hour Week have stuck with me through the years. It helped form a deep sense of appreciation for those who work to make others’ lives a little better. 

For more that one hundred years, we have been celebrating Labor Day. Its roots trace back to the New York City labor unions of the early 1880s. Peter J. McGuire, the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested a day for those who “have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” It may be a bit easier to notice and appreciate those working around us in times of struggle and strife. In 2020, we have a newfound perspective and appreciation for those essential workers who have played a small part in getting us through the last eight months.

There are so many essential workers that need to be thanked. Educators across this country would certainly be included in this list, especially the educators I work with each day. We are just beginning a new school year, and I could not ask for a better group of teachers and support staff to be with through this adventure. From the cafeteria staff to the custodians, and from the office staff to our teacher assistants, everyone has done more than their part to help get the school year started smoothly. Our teachers began meeting with students in July to assess them and start making decisions about how to best prepare them for the year ahead. Not once have I heard a complaint about working face to face with students. I am entirely aware that these teachers don’t come to school without concerns. They have young children themselves, and many have parents and others in their immediate families that are immunocompromised and at greater risk if exposed to the virus. Still, in the face of danger, they have been willing to put their safety and self-interest aside and focus on asking the essential question, “what is the best thing I can do for our students today?” For that, I could not be prouder or more humbled to come to work each day and be greeted by such an amazing group of people.

Not only have they been willing to set aside very real safety concerns to try and do what is best for our students, but they have also been ready to address challenges never faced before in the modern era of education.   They have entirely redesigned instructional delivery stretching far outside the classroom, where they were trained to teach.  They have also done this while having limited access to network resources due to the ransomware attack last week.  I am so proud of their strength and determination, as well as their ability to maintain a positive attitude in the face of overwhelming circumstances.

As we take this weekend to rest and relax, we should take a moment to consider those whose labor has made our lives a little easier, a little safer, or a little more possible.  As I do that this weekend, the faculty and staff at Hazelwood Elementary will be at the top of the list.  Know that you are an amazing group of individuals, and the work you do is critical to our students’ success and the success of our community.  It is some of the most important work and has such a significant impact on the future of so many of those around us.  For that, I say both “Thank You!” and “Rest Well!”  Enjoy the holiday weekend. You certainly deserve it.