In my local school district where I serve as a Trustee, our Superintendent has done a great job of communicating with the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning in March, he began a series of regular video communications broadcast live through YouTube and Facebook Live. During these communications, there was one recurring theme...let's show grace to one another during these very difficult times. It was a message which I think we all need to keep in mind during these times.
We need to show grace to the teachers and administrators who are working so diligently under circumstances none of them could have ever imagined or were ever trained for. We need to show grace to the educators learning an entirely new system of teaching and who are now teaching both in-person and remotely...without a change in pay.
We need to show grace to the IT people behind the scenes. They are trying to find new systems to support remote learning and trying to keep existing infrastructure up and running. I can't even imagine the draw on bandwidth when an entire district's worth of teachers and students are all trying to access the same server simultaneously. I don't know if you know this or not, but online conferencing platforms and curriculum hosting takes up a tremendous amount of computing power. Just keeping these systems running is a super-power.
We need to show grace to the child nutrition and food service employees who are trying to keep our children fed. Disruptions and changes to normal procedures do not just affect the classroom. Even how we prepare and serve food in the face of this pandemic has drastically changed. And that's not even considering the time and effort they put into preparing meals during the summer to keep children fed. They, just like the rest of us, are learning as they go and doing the best they possibly can.
We need to show grace to the bus drivers. Trying to keep children socially distanced, masked, and safe during transportation is an incredibly difficult and stressful job. The beginning of any new school year brings transportation challenges with new routes, new stops, and different route timing. It is exponentially more difficult when you are dealing with different kids attending school on different days and adding additional routes to allow for fewer children per bus.
We need to show grace to the front office workers and administrative personnel. They did not sign up for a job to answer phones from irate parents who are upset about something over which the person answering the phone has absolutely no control. I promise you, they do not enjoy telling parents that they cannot come into their child's school or cannot drop off lunch for their child.
We need to show grace to campus administrators. They have been given basic guidelines by which they must abide, but every campus is different. They are under a tremendous amount of pressure to make adjustments on the fly to account for the uniqueness of their campus.
We need to show grace to the district administrators who are making decisions for hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of school children and hundreds or thousands of employees with little or no guidance from the state and federal government. What little guidance that has been given has been in the form of suggestions. Just like any other issue handed down from on high, the states are attempting to place unfunded mandates on districts. In many cases, they are told what they must do, but they are left to figure out for themselves how they will pay for it. Or, they are simply given no guidance at all and expected to "just figure it out." There is absolutely no way to make every person happy.
We need to show grace to parents. They have been under their own financial and personal pressure for months, and have been additionally tasked with becoming home school teachers and tutors. Speaking for myself, I have advanced college degrees, but Algebra II is not my area of expertise. I can speak intelligently to issues of theology. I can even train school boards in effective governance. But, I am not well-versed in translations of functions and axes of symmetry.
Finally, we need to show grace to our students. More than anyone, they want to be back in their classrooms with their friends. No child wants to fail or to perform below their abilities. But, learning from home has been hard for them. And, returning to a structured schedule after 6 months of relative chaos may not be easy for them.
This pandemic and the wrath it has wrought are not the fault of anyone. Teachers, administrators, district employees, and trustees didn't want to close schools, but they had to for public safety and health. Parents didn't want to teach their children and tutor them, but they had to for their child's sake. And kids didn't want to be out of school for six months, but circumstances far beyond their control forced them to be.
I think we have all earned a little grace.