"Education is an ornament in prosperity but a refuge in adversity."
It has been a while since I submitted an article to the Lakes Area Review. Things have been a little out of the ordinary for all of us. With two weeks of distance learning behind us, I have found a sliver of time to compose this article of appreciation.
Over the past two weeks I have been asked several times to describe what we experienced here at New London-Spicer Public Schools. The only response I could think of that would answer those questions is the following.
"It is as though each of us have found ourselves staring in a recently released movie. One we did not audition for, however, we somehow got the part and are all doing our best to win an academy award for our performance."
Although I realize that analogy may not be the best, we want our students to be the "winners" in the end. Those of us drawn to the calling of education are well-prepared to deliver instruction, build relationships, assess outcomes, manage classrooms, and innovate. With that being said, our undergraduate work, graduate work, post graduate work, and other experiences never covered the topic, "How to respond, educationally, in times of a pandemic." With little time to prepare for distance learning, I firmly believe our staff, students, families, and communities did exceptionally well.
To our students...I'm sorry you are experiencing this unusual situation. We are committed to making this an effective and positive experience for all of you. Our hope is that you return this school year so that we may offer a proper goodbye. Please remember that we are here to support you in any way, always.
To our families and communities...Thank you for your patience, understanding, and flexibility throughout this process. We chose this profession to be in the presence of children as they motivate and inspire us to do our work. The New London-Spicer staff will maintain it's strong commitment to educational excellence and we hope to welcome all children back soon.
To our teachers...When you were called to put together a distance learning plan, you rolled your sleeves up and got to work. Your call to service was to think differently and continue delivering high quality, equitable education for all. Whether it be developing instruction, counseling services, health care plans, individualized education plans, and other coordinated efforts, you met those goals! Your commitment to continuous improvement is admirable.
To our paraprofessionals...You are appreciated! Many of you are working in positions in which you did not apply for but are doing so with energy and passion. You have been amazing in providing childcare, gathering resources, and anything else you've been asked to do. It is clear your commitment to our students in strong!
To our custodians...Thank you for working relentlessly in ensuring our buildings are clean, sanitized, and disinfected. It seems as though your required responsibilities change on a daily basis as determined by current information. I sincerely appreciate your ability to work through these times with an open mind and your strong commitment to adjusting course.
To our food service staff...You had two days to put together a food services program which would provide meals to all children in our school communities 18 years and younger. Each of you jumped right in and got it done. We started with just over 300 meals and are now north of 900 meals daily. Most impressed!
To our office staff...Interpreting new legislation, answering phones, gathering materials, coordinating events, and ensuring strong communication are just a few things you took on to maintain an effective transition. Thank you for providing the necessary work to ensure our planning moved forward.
To our transportation company...Transportation of school age care for essential employees, meal deliveries, and resource delivery is your new normal. With each new challenge, you all responded with, "How can we help?" That simple question during a challenging situation made a world of difference.
To our technology team...Your quick work to ensure our students and staff were well equipped was remarkable. With only eight days you had to make sure all software and hardware were sufficient to ensure experiences for all were positive.
To our administrative team...Thank you for working around the clock to pull everything together. Your willingness to share openly, disagree, compromise, interject, and reach consensus for the benefit of all New London-Spicer students was outstanding and appreciated.
To our school board...Thank you for trusting in the leadership of our entire staff and supporting our decisions. In most circumstances, you are directly involved in the decision making process but acknowledged that this situation did not have the benefit of time to include you throughout the process. Your support, trust, and confidence in all our staff is appreciated.
In closing, it is clear that putting together the unimaginable is not possible without a team approach. Each member listed above is a vital part of the New London-Spicer Team. Losing just one of those members would be detrimental to our organization. I am thrilled to be on this team!
And the winner is...New London-Spicer Students!