A full school year amid the pandemic has ended, and together we face the challenge of readying for a new academic year.
Given all that we have experienced over the last year, I believe many of us have developed a renewed sense of meaning and purpose, and perhaps a recognition of our hidden strengths, core humanity, goodness, and generosity. Perhaps many of us also gained a better understanding of the needs and struggles of those around us.
Perhaps we’ve asked ourselves new or essential questions: What is important to me and my family? What else should we do to help our students and communities? Why do I do what I do? I hope that what we have gained and learned remains with us, as it can benefit everyone, especially the students and systems that we serve.
A lot has happened in public education in a very compressed and demanding time frame. Students, teachers, administrators, families, and education partners have had to embrace new ways of teaching and learning. Although students and teachers may doubt that they have maximized opportunities for growth this past year, the truth is that we have all grown in reflective and intentional practices. We must all remember that we can learn as much from unplanned experiences as well as we can from planned ones.
The pandemic made us more reliant on technology and pushed us to become much more digitally savvy than we would have otherwise. We did not have a trial period to note the advantages or drawbacks of these new technologies and methods.
A big question for many of us is what will all of this mean after the pandemic? Will we go back to operating as we have, or will we be inspired by innovations and aim to advance even further? Do we plan based on what we now know while the experience is fresh and the knowledge can guide us to more thorough, deliberate preparation, not only for another unplanned event but also so that we can better meet the needs of each student?
I believe that the future of our communities and our nation depends on the education, formation, and development of our most precious future leaders: our young people, our students. We must resolve here and now, as we have struggled to do so before, to develop that ideal. What we do know, and has been demonstrated so vividly this year, is that school boards, administrators, and educators are resilient. They have shown that they are up to the challenge of adapting to dramatic changes. But they continue to need support to do their best work.
In this coming academic year and beyond, NSBA and I want to be of service to you and the 51 million students in your charge. Let us all be inspired by the innovations of the past year and together support this important work of achieving equity and excellence in education for each child. Best wishes to you.