Pay It Forward

Kevin Casey, SAANYS Executive Director
June 2021 News & Notes

As the 2020-21 school year comes to a close, I think all would agree that it was an exceptionally difficult one. Perhaps not as trying as the second half of the 2019-20 school year, but close.

Educators deserve great credit for performing admirably under very difficult circumstances. As a society, we learned as the pandemic progressed, that following the science meant committing ourselves to an ever-evolving course set in the first instance by medical professionals and politicians, and not necessarily by anyone with experience in education. There were frustrations resulting from the timing of guidance and the sometimes inconsistent guidance from state and county health departments. There were those caught in the middle of policy debates about remote learning, mask wearing, distancing… over which you had little influence. As a result, some of you became adept diplomats. There was also the absorption of the time consuming contact tracing function, which otherwise would not have gotten done.

I recall a SAANYS pandemic professional development session where a presenter urged his listeners to be forgiving of those who failed, those who could not endure the stresses to the same extent as others, or who demanded more than could be delivered. He urged a supportive and compassionate mindset that is often directed to students be likewise directed to staff, parents, and regulators. I recognize that it’s not easy being the strong, understanding person. It can be exhausting and even the best among us will fail from time to time. Nevertheless, I love that message. I love the humanity and decency at its core. It reflects an ethos common among educators.

Clearly, hardship has been in abundant supply. Lost loved ones, lost jobs along with all the anxieties that accompany adverse financial exposure. Children and families that couldn’t or wouldn’t make remote learning work. Technological roadblocks to instruction. ELL and SPED students underserved despite the best efforts of educators. These harsh realities should not prevent a clear-eyed look at what you did in fact accomplish and the many that you served well. You should be applauded for your efforts.

As you go into the summer, one that may well be busier for you than most summers past, don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Your calm and positivity benefits those with whom you interact. Don’t forget that the infection rate has been steadily declining and the number of those vaccinated continues to increase. Don’t forget that the financial calamity anticipated for school districts months ago has been averted by a significant infusion of federal and state monies, and a full in-person reopening is anticipated for most districts. Don’t forget you have faced the worst of this and are now coming out on the other side.

There are undoubtedly challenges and annoyances that lie ahead, but after what you have been through since March of 2020 you should have little doubt in your ability to adapt and deliver. For those that cannot, try compassion and forgiveness at the outset. Honestly, some of your colleagues, and perhaps yourself, will benefit from someone else applying that mindset. Perhaps they already have.