In the Know Column: Ready for an uncertain school year

Posted by Rick Sansted on 8/31/2020 9:50:00 AM

The best part is our teachers have been thinking about these opportunities - and they are ready to act and lead our students as they return.

By Rick Sansted, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools

Ready, set, go...

I am excited.  I am nervous.  I am filled with anticipation  - both good and bad.  How will my first day go?  Will I have any friends in my classes?  Will I remember my lunch number? My locker combination?  What time does my bus arrive?

All of these questions and emotions are present for students at the start of a typical school year.  This year those questions are present along with many others.  I want to highlight a couple of areas that have been in action over the summer as we prepared to start our 2020 school year.

Communications:  I hope that our communication efforts with our community have helped outline our safe start practices as we look to kick off the 2020 school year.  I also want to recognize that this year is different.  Different procedures, different protocols, different schedules.  Things are different. Thank you to our staff, students and parents for your responses, input and feedback as we have worked through our planning stages together.  Your continued attention to building level and district wide communication is needed as we get the school year started. 

Teacher connections:  I just saw one of our teachers in the hallway prior to sitting down and typing out this column.  His first response was excitement.  He has not had a chance to connect with students in person since March.  He and his department colleagues have thought about how they were going to help kids grow in a new way given the protocols.  How can we get students outside more frequently?  How do we adjust our learning activities to support student learning and development?  How do we build time for students to reconnect with each other?  

The best part is our teachers have been thinking about these opportunities - and they are ready to act and lead our students as they return.

And vs. but:  In times when stress levels are higher than normal our desire for control seems to go up.  This summer I have partnered with our state department of education, local public health officials and our Alexandria Public Schools staff.  I have worked hard to not shut down creative problem solving to use the term and instead of the word but.  And provides for continued flow of problem solving whereas but often puts others in a defensive posture.  Once a shift to defensive posture is made, collaborative problem solving becomes less likely.  Our vocabulary matters.  Small words can make a big difference.  Collaborative, creative problem solving needs to include the language of and rather than but.

Clarity vs. Certainty:  Having been on numerous Zoom and GoogleMeet calls this summer, I had a chance to listen and dialogue with educators from across the region and state.  One take away for me was the desire for certainty.  You have heard numerous times since March - these are unprecedented times.  The level of uncertainty is high.  In talking with parents over the summer many were asking for certaint and in many cases I was not able to provide them the certainty they desired.  What I am seeking to provide is clarity.  Clarity in process.  Clarity in schedules.  Clarity for building teacher student relationships.  This summer and going forward our school district will look to provide clarity even when we cannot provide certainty.  

Safe Start: As we start the 2020 school year we seek to fulfill our district mission of inspiring a life-long passion for learning and our vision of tailoring the learning of each child by working together. 

I am excited.  I am nervous.  I am filled with anticipation - of that I am certain.  And we are READY to reconnect with our A Team students and families!