Dear ATC Family,
We suddenly all find ourselves in a moment of ultimate uncertainty. We don’t know how or when the COVID-19 pandemic might affect our family or friends, and we don’t really know when the worst impacts will be behind us or when social distancing guidelines might be lifted. For some that means being separated from friends and family without knowing when exactly they might be reunited. For those with children, this may mean the loss of a valuable support network for childcare as you work to balance your responsibilities as a parent and teacher. For others, social distancing and the resulting economic shutdown may have led to sudden financial challenges with the loss of a job or increased uncertainty for those who might still be working but don’t have access to widespread testing.
As educators, we also don’t know how the shortened school year will affect our students and their families, if they have uninterrupted access to food and needed supplies, if they have access to WiFi and technology needed for alternative learning plans, or if their home situations have changed due to the larger economic downturn. We don’t know how virtual learning or limited social interaction might affect our students’ long-term growth and development, and, moreover, we don’t know how this pandemic and the sudden shift to online learning might change our approach to education forever.
What we do know is that we are still driven by our belief in students’ potential and our conviction for a better and more just world. We are mourning the end of a shortened school year and the grief we feel at losing the final quarter – a time we should be celebrating our students and their growth. But, we know that relationships can still be built, students can still be inspired, and learning can still continue without school buildings, physical classrooms, and face-to-face teaching. We know this crisis has caused us to reflect on our practice and consider what’s really important, to adapt and continue those practices that matter while letting go of those practices we just do out of habit. We know that this pandemic will eventually end, offering us an opportunity to create a new approach to schooling that is more excellent and more equitable than the “normal” we left behind.
We know that we are encountering a new and unfamiliar world together and that our community has been directly impacted over the past month. We know that our family has faced overwhelming challenges caused by the pandemic, severe weather, and economic instability. We know that our friends and family have become sick with COVID-19, lost their homes to weather damage, and lost their jobs to reductions-in-force at their school. And, we know that, no matter what, our community continues to do whatever they can for our students, for their families, and for each other. We know that we are uncertain yet resilient, and we know that together we can face and overcome the challenges before us.
Brave Vulnerability: We demonstrate courage through connection, authenticity, and a sustained openness to change.
We didn’t know what the future would bring when we introduced ATC’s new core values this time a year ago. We didn’t know that a pandemic would bring the world to a standstill, but we knew that Brave Vulnerability would be integral to our work and to better engaging our community partners in excellent, equitable education. A year later, the core value of Brave Vulnerability is more important than ever as we struggle to maintain connection from isolation, to remain grounded in our authentic selves, and to navigate this ever-evolving crisis.
As a program, ATC has responded to this unprecedented situation by prioritizing people and focusing on what’s within our immediate control: continuing coaching support virtually, re-designing in-person professional development to meet these new needs, setting clear expectations about what to prioritize and what to deprioritize at this particular time, and increasing access to financial and social-emotional resources. We know that we can’t change the broader economic and health crises, but we can do our part to mitigate the impact. We know that we can’t control when social distancing guidelines are lifted or when school physically resumes, but we can choose how to continue learning, teaching, and supporting teachers from afar.
Even in times of uncertainty and change, we know that we can continue moving forward by focusing on what we can actually control. We may not be able to control the circumstance, but we can control our response. I invite you to consider what’s within your sphere of control during this time; it is my hope that you are finding your own special way to make a difference while staying safe and tending to yourself and your family. We will get through this together.