As with any time of tumult and change, these issues can sometimes distract from what is most important: the emotional, mental, physical, and academic well being of the students we serve. Each day we don't have students in our buildings and on our fields we run the risk of losing those incredibly important connections that drive so much of the data around student achievement. Relationships matter, now more than ever. I just watched a Ted Talk on What Makes a Good Life, and the answer after a 75 year Harvard study was relationships. Pure and simple. Having high quality relationships with the people in your life help you stay healthier, live longer, and thrive.
As I watch my own three children struggle to navigate this new reality, I am struck by how much they miss their people. Although I can't change it right now, I know that every time a teacher sends an e-mail, or they chat with peers to solve their math problems, I get a little glimpse of their sparkle that I have been so missing. If at the end of all of this, we accomplished one thing, I hope it is that we learn more about how to connect with one another in genuine ways, even when we can't be face to face. There are so many students, and families, we can reach if we take this opportunity to develop our capacity to engage in conversations, give and receive feedback, share an experience, or teach something new through a virtual platform. As an instructional leader, the challenge is to help students believe that their voice, even through the computer, matters, to you and to their peers. Set up some small group chats, encourage students to call one another for homework help, and use those office hours to play a game together. These are the ways we can keep moving forward, and encourage the relationships that all of our students will need to rely on as they are faced with new challenges.