Focusing on the Positive
By Malynda McClellan
Second Grade Teacher, Western Oaks Elementary
Malynda was named a Putnam City Schools Top Five Excellent Educator this year. As guest blogger this week, we asked her to share with our readers the perspective of a teacher dealing with the closure of her school due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She enthusiastically agreed! We hope you find it as enlightening and inspiring as we do.
When I heard the news on March 25 that school buildings would be closed for the remainder of the school year, my mind, like that of every other teacher, began reeling with questions. What about the barriers to at-home learning? How can I possibly move my students from where they are now to where they need to be? How will they respond? How can this possibly work? All of these questions are valid and valuable for beginning to develop solutions. However, focusing solely on these questions caused me to be stuck in a cloud of negativity. Knowing that was not a good place to sit, I decided to change my mindset and to ask a more positive question.
What good could result from this unprecedented time in education? The answer that continued to stand out in my mind related to building stronger relationships between school and home that could last beyond a pandemic.
I am so grateful to work at a school with teachers, staff, and administrators that have big hearts. Upon learning the news of school closures, our administrators, school counselor, and other staff began immediately developing a plan to reach out to families to not only determine their needs related to how we would continue to educate their children, but also to determine their more basic needs. Several staff members began immediately working on a plan to help provide food for our neediest families. Our counselor communicated with local churches and charities, and private donations began rolling in for the purpose of meeting the needs of our families. Being able to reach out and serve in this way has strengthened our bond with students and parents.
There are other ways that positive relationships have been and can continue to be fostered through all of this. We as teachers get to communicate more regularly with parents about what their students need to learn and how they can help them succeed. Of possibly even greater importance, we get to convey how much we value and appreciate our parents. We get to encourage and reassure them. We get to commend our students not only for academic achievement, but for practical daily contributions they make to their families at home. Being able to communicate with our families in these ways are invaluable opportunities that I hope we don’t miss.
During a time where there is so much separation and seclusion, I have found that I and my fellow educators have been, in a way, more VISIBLE than ever before. Such visibility and availability has strengthened the bond between our staff, students, and their families. For students and families struggling during this time, we have become a listening ear, a caring voice, and serving hands. This is the positive. Let’s focus on this. And when August comes and we are blessed to once again teach our students face-to-face, let us find new ways to be visible and to continue building bonds with our families!
April 16, 2020