A new school year presents opportunities for various beginnings – a new school, new classes, new faces, sometimes new courses, and often new materials. Summer and vacation can be an excellent time for rest and renewal. As we approach the opening day, I hope the end-of-year pressures of May seem trivial as you anticipate the possibilities of the upcoming year.
We often mentioned in our building that last year was the year of grace and flexibility. It was a school year like no other. There were challenges and successes. There were mistakes and learning. But, last year was not a “throwaway” year. Those that consider the previous year a wasted year underplay the valiant efforts of our students and staff. While we are hopefully returning to a typical school year, we are not out of the tunnel yet. There is a light at the end, but there is still some traveling yet before we can say it is all past us. It will continue to take the same level of commitment and effort for our students to get back on track. If last year was the year of grace and flexibility, this coming year needs to be the year of hope and opportunity.
As students and staff return to full-time, in-person learning, we first need to focus our efforts on re-engaging students in the educational process. For some students, they have not set foot in a school building for almost 18 months. Others had their education interrupted with hybrid schedules, quarantine, and virtual learning. I believe our students and staff did their best, but we saw last year the power of our students’ work with our students in the classroom each day. Education is a people system, and we need to be engaged with people daily to learn at the highest level.
As we re-engage students back in school, we must also help our students envision a future for themselves. It is difficult to have hope if we cannot see a positive future for ourselves. When students lose hope, they often look for opportunity in the wrong places. As last school year was mentally draining for us all, as we get back, we must help students create a vision for what they want to accomplish in their lives and how they can positively contribute to society.
This work will not be easy. It never is, but it is why we are called to serve as educators. We must work to equip students with the skills they need to reach their full potential. Every student is starting at a different place, and some will even be further behind this year due to the past year’s struggles. We must provide a high level of care and an appropriate level of expectation as we get kids back into the learning environment. For students to execute their plans and make their vision a reality, we must equip them with skills that go far beyond the content. To make this happen, we must approach each student’s learning with the desire to make them take ownership of their work, and leave them with a desire to want to know more.
None of what I just described will be easy. It is going to take a great deal of encouragement. The most significant factor in making critical repairs to the brain is relationships. As we come back to school, there are going to continue to be struggles. There will be behaviors that we will not like from our students as we work to re-engage them in school. When rules supersede relationships, we miss opportunities to unlock students’ full potential. We must focus on being encouragers to help students fully engage in school.
I look forward to my sixth year at Southport High School as we serve our diverse community by developing independent thinkers who excel in an ever-changing world. This mission must become more than just a poster on the wall. Our mission and beliefs must drive our daily behaviors. We are, at times, the most crucial role model for our students. Each person at Southport High School owns a piece of our culture. Every person, regardless of your role, is a symbol of what it means to BE A CARDINAL!