Twenty six year old, Sri Lankan author Thisuri Wanniarachchi wisely said, “Life is at its best when everything has fallen out of place, and you decide that you’re going to fight to get them right, not when everything is going your way and everyone is praising you.”
On the eve of what will prove to be the most challenging educational year that any student, parent or educational professional may ever experience, many are undoubtedly feeling uncertain about the pathway that lies at our doorstep. The concepts and skills that we are grappling with, the information gaps that we are managing, and the tension and uncertainty of everything as you, our educational professionals, portray a picture of confidence and provide comfort for your students.
On the front page of the Sunday State Journal Register, yet another absolutely positive piece about our Springfield 186 professionals titled, Teachers, families prepare for remote learning with creativity; urge ‘latitude and grace’. It showcased Harvard Park Elementary first grade teacher, Allison Acker and the great lengths that she has gone to already to turn a year from tragedy into terrific. It provides a close up look at the manner in which she has connected with her parents and unique and exciting delivery of remote learning opportunities provided for her students. It also shone a positive light on Owen Marsh Elementary teacher, Nicolette Harris, who has shown particular electronic prowess helping guide students, parents and colleagues alike, saving many of us from our own fears and anxieties as our remote learning Joan of Arc. What a story of success and bonding between educational professionals and the community.
This week will be a story of success for your students too, with YOU as their hero once again. It may never reach the news desk of the local paper, or be immortalized in national news like grand stories around pajamas, but we know that you will be doing the work and doing it damn well. We will all assuredly make mistakes, hit hypothetical walls of resistance, or want to throw in the towel at some point. But remember, this has always been the burden that educators and professionals working in this arena have always carried. This year is just a little bit more. But we can do it.
On board with us this 2020-21 school year, nearly 60 new teachers and social workers in our ranks… many brand new to the profession. This year, more than ever, we need to pay particular attention and look out for them. In doing so, we look out for ourselves, and we empower our schools and make our organization stronger. As the old African proverb says, “It takes a village.” Let this year be the year that we make every new educator, educational professional and educational support professional feel welcome and part of our family.
Your SEA family members who have ground away at the impact bargaining table this summer have managed to negotiate a myriad of things to better support you, your students and your families, as we all begin this educational journey into the unknown. We know that you hoped negotiations to be complete to bring you improved assurance, however, we have not yet finished this arduous task. Know for a fact that nothing we are engaged in is preventing answers from being presented to you though. In fact it has been key in developing answers and solutions to help the District better navigate this uncertain summer and the road ahead this school year, and answers to some of your most pressing concerns and tentative contractual agreements are soon to materialize.
Finally, in the wake of a tragic, racially and politically charged summer, it must be acknowledged that things have changed for us and for our students. There is no looking back. We will have to engage in discussions around race with our colleagues, our students and our communities and they will be difficult. We will need to look carefully at candidates from school board to President and engage in discussions around which are truly aligned and best for public education. But through it, we will become healthier for each other and better for our students as we lean into it like the brave professionals that we are.
Through all of this, your union leadership is prepared to take the lead and to bear some of this weight, and to help you, your schools and your students as you need. You are not alone in this. We are together. We are strong. We are a union.
President – Springfield Education Association