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Tuesday, August 25, 2020

In Other Words: Thoughts on the Beginning of a “New” School Year

Courtesy: Deleece Cook

By Chuck Keller

After teaching for over three decades, I can distill education down to this - ask questions and seek answers and then repeat the process again and again.  Eventually you begin to see how things are connected. Your view expands and deepens. It doesn’t matter the grade level or life level, the process remains the same.

What if you didn’t know the answer to “What is 2 + 2?” or “What makes a car move forward?” or “What is justice?”  What questions would you ask to find the answer? How would you know if your answer is correct? The process is the same for everything we learn. Oh, and answers change as we ask more questions. And those answers change us. It’s how we become who we are.

There is always a mix of anxiety and anticipation at the beginning of a new school year for parents, students, teachers, and the community. But this year that mix of anxiety and anticipation is ramped up a few levels by COVID-19.

So I asked “What can we expect this school year?” Here are my answers.

The virus is here so act like everybody has it.

Everyone is stressed.

Know that no one (students, parents, teachers, administrators) wants a school year with this kind of pressure.

You will be asked and expected to sacrifice for a greater good or need. Your action reveals a truth about you.

Wash your masks at the end of the day.

Do no harm.

Safety first.

Be kind. Everyone is suffering to some degree.

Be patient. We are all learning about the virus and how to deal with it together so don’t expect someone to have all of the answers. There is no teacher’s manual for this.

Respect the space of others.

We are all in this together. What happens to one, happens to all.

Ask questions. Seek answers to clarify directions or for more information. There are no stupid questions. It is bad is when a person doesn’t ask a question to avoid embarrassment or looking weak. So ask.

Expect change.  This should be a part of any plan.

Seek data.

Act responsibly. Don’t let your guard down.

Expect the unexpected.

Mental health is important so take care of it.


Be aware of your emotions but don’t let them rule you.

You are not the center of the universe so don’t act like it.

Help others the best you can to deal with the trauma of a sudden shutdown or the loss of sports or enrichment activities.

Teaching and learning is about relationships. Build them and revere them. It’s going to be hard but it’s worth the effort.

You are not invincible.

There is no going back. Nothing will ever be the same.

Don’t be cruel online. That speaks poorly of who you aspire to be.

Ask for help and give help. Parents, students, and teachers will all need help and are also willing to help.

This school year will be a challenge, but we’ve faced challenges before and we have adapted and overcome. And we will again. It’s like what the great scientist Stephen Hawking observed,  “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” If we’re smart, we’ll remember that.

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