Six Degrees of Separation

I am someone who expresses her thoughts through words, and I’ve been at a loss for what to say.  Our world is fractured. Our connections, already strained because of quarantine, feel further disrupted by the unrest after the killing of George Floyd. Peaceful protests. Unrest. Riots. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “riots are the language of the unheard.”  Google it.  He didn’t just say it once.  He said it many times because it was necessary many times.  You’ll find it referenced over and over because this is far from the first time we have found ourselves in this situation.

I wish this time was different.  I hope this time is different.  A black man or woman is killed.  People express sadness and anger and fear.  Others unite around them.  We move on.  It happens again.  And again.

I don’t know what to say.

I don’t know what to do.

But I know that I have to start with myself.  I know that I have to listen more, read more.  I know that I have to be willing to confront my white privilege, my white fragility, my own racism.  It is time to look inward.

If riots are the language of the unheard, then listening is a good place to start.

I’ve been reminded recently that when our view of racism is limited to the obvious, horrific, blatant examples, we risk missing the larger, systemic racism.  When we rationalize that only a few hateful, bad people are guilty of being racist, we risk missing the larger, systemic ways we could be contributing to the problem and to the solution.

I contribute to the problem, and I can contribute to the solution.

Listen.  Action is critical right now, but action ill-informed is not helpful.

Read.  Action is critical right now, but action based solely on our limited knowledge and perspective is not helpful.

Commit to self-reflection.  Look inward.  Accept that we are all in a different place on this journey, and that we all have a responsibility to seek answers.

We need each other.  We need to find ways to learn from each other and to appreciate each other. Never have I ever been more acutely aware of how much I need humankind.  Six feet apart is hard.  But the idea of six degrees of separation is hopeful.  If we are all linked to every other person by six or fewer connections, then we can tackle these seemingly insurmountable issues.

I don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to say.

But I am committed to learning and to listening and to taking action.

 

Rest

I’m tired.

I was on a Zoom this week (oh, how I am ready to stop saying that) when a friend and mentor said he was tired.  There was a visible shift on the faces of the people in the meeting.  It was permission.  To exhale.

March 12th seems like a lifetime ago.  The Thursday before Spring Break was intense.  That week the pandemic became real in our country.  The NCAA tournament ended abruptly prompting a string of major cancellations.  We started the week trying hard, based on the ever-changing information available, to maintain a sense of calm.  We tried to keep things as normal as possible as the world seemed to spin out of control.

By Thursday we canceled school on Friday.

And we never returned to our buildings.

But we did return to teaching after break.  We took a day to steady ourselves, to catch up on any needed training, and to prepare for what we now know would be 8 weeks of remote learning.  And boy did we nail it!

Now, it is time to rest.

Parents, you need a break.  Thank you for keeping your children safe and cared for and loved.  Thank you for sorting through all of those emails and making schedules and figuring out the math and the physics.  Please stop comparing your experience to anyone else’s.  Stop judging yourself when you see those Facebook posts of the moms teaching their children a new language or the dads baking cookies.  We never see the full story on social media.  We each had our own unique situation through this, and we all did the very best we could.  You rocked it!  Now rest.

Students, you need a break.  Thank you for not checking out.  Thank you for logging in and checking Classroom and posting to SeeSaw and showing up for stay-in-your car parades.  Thank you for caring about your learning and for stepping up in ways no other students have ever had to do.  Yesterday was graduation day!  Seniors, there aren’t enough words to say how sorry we are that you lost spring concerts and sports seasons and proms and, at least for now, an in-person graduation.  You have all shown strength and courage and grace like no one could have imagined.  You showed the world what this generation can do, and we are proud beyond measure of who you are!  You rocked it!  Now rest.

Finally, I am overwhelmed as I write this to our teachers and our administrators and our food service and our custodians and our support staff, all of whom stepped up in ways I could never have imagined.

More than 300,000 meals have been served.  Five days a week our food service staff has been providing curbside pick-up breakfast and lunch to support our students in this challenging time.

More creative and engaging Meet and Zoom sessions have been conducted than anyone could count.

Concerts were performed remotely.  Auditions and try-outs still happened.  There was a spring play.  Meetings with parents went on.  May Baskets were still delivered, and there was even a field day.

And my daughter, an SLP in one of our schools, taught preschool with her team through her computer.  Can you imagine?

To say you rocked it doesn’t do it justice.  You knocked it out of the park.  Ten weeks ago I blogged that “you’ve got this.”  I had no idea!  Never, ever, ever underestimate an educator!  Thank you!  Thank you for caring so much.  Thank you for never giving up on what we do.

Now rest.  You need a break.

 

 

 

Gander

I was working on ideas for a different blog yesterday when I saw Come from Away, the musical currently showing at The Orpheum. It was a surprise, a last minute invitation from a friend. Movies and musicals are my thing. I see them; I know them. But I had not even heard of Come from Away.

I learned just a few things before the show. I learned it was about Gander, Newfoundland; I learned it was about 167 planes that landed there on 9/11 when the airspace in the US was closed; I learned it was about the almost 7000 people forced to stay there for days and days and the people from Gander who cared for them.

I was worried it would be sad, and of course there were moments of sadness. But mostly it was an inspiration and a reminder that in the midst of the most horrific tragedies in our history, there were people and communities and nations supporting each other.

The arts have a way of telling our stories like few other things can. This one is a story worth telling. The show was one of those communal experiences that touches everyone and makes us one for the night.

After the show, cast members explained that when you tell this story over and over, it becomes part of who you are. As the cast and crew arrived in Nebraska, they were moved to help us. Producers are donating $1 from each ticket sold to flood relief, and Omaha Performing Arts and Broadway Across America are matching it.

The world is a good place filled with people and communities and nations willing to be there for those who need it.

Tom Brokaw told this story beautifully, and Come from Away is based on his report. I’ve linked it below. It’s a story worth watching.

Tom Brokaw 9/11 Operation Yellow Ribbon

Nurture the Relationship

Every interaction you have matters!  Every interaction you have builds or damages the relationship.

Schools have not traditionally thought of themselves as organizations with customers or brands.  But of course we are.  Today more than ever we are the topic of conversation in the neighborhood, on Facebook, on Twitter.  Our students, our staff, our parents, and our community have a broad platform from which to share their experiences in our schools.  We are telling our stories, and they are telling our stories.

Each time we answer the phone or greet someone at the door of our school, we make an impression.  Each time we say hello in the drop-off lane or greet a student by name in the hallway, we make an impression.  We nurture the relationship, or we damage the relationship.

We know that we are able to do more positive things for our students when we have positive relationships with them.  The same is true for our staff and for our families.  Are we focusing enough on building those relationships?

It’s a busy time.  As we roll into October, it gets even busier.  Fall sports are in full swing.  Parent teacher conferences are right around the corner.  The end of the quarter means assessment and grading and report cards.  It can get overwhelming.

I know that for me, the busier I get, the more likely I am to rush my interactions with people.  I get focused on my tasks and forget my relationships.  I am setting a goal for October to stay focused on people, to nurture the relationship in all of my interactions.  I hope you’ll join me.

Community

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It was a heartbreaking loss after a great game!  The Patriots shot three pointers like they’ve done all season.  The Hawks hit free throw after free throw. It was a sight to see.  Overtime.  How state titles should be earned!  …if only it had ended in our favor.

But today is a new day.  Today Millard South and Lincoln Southwest are once again a part of the same community, a community of athletes, of high school students, of Nebraskans. What unites them is once again stronger than what divides them.  That is always the case!

Community was proudly on display last night.

Brothers and sisters and parents and grandparents holding signs and waving pictures of their players. Family.

Cheerleaders and band members and dance teams and amazing student sections cheering on their players. School.

Guards, forwards, coaches, trainers. Team.

On both sides!

There is power in community.  There is energy and enthusiasm in community.  You could feel it in the arena.  Many voices became one. What no single person could accomplish can often be done with ease when people come together.  “Many hands make light work.”

Communities working together can do amazing things!  Imagine if those families, those teams, those schools worked together.  Imagine what they could do.  Last week I saw communities working together to clean up after tornadoes in Illinois and Missouri.  This year we have already seen communities rally together after fires and floods and blizzards.

Imagine what we could do if our communities came together for a common purpose.  Could we ensure all students have access to a quality education?  Could we guarantee care for the elderly?  End hunger?  End homelessness?  Could we see to it that every single person feels a sense of belonging, of love?

Families, teams, schools know that there is power in community.  If only we could extend that to the community of humankind.

img_4128One community walked away last night happy with the result, the other wishing the outcome had been different. But both walked away with a sense a pride, proud of what they had accomplished together through the season, proud of what can be done when we unite.