Suffering from quarantine-fever this week, my dog Miss Pinkerton and I went for a walk through the neighborhood. As we meandered around the first corner, we were excited to see that the whole community had come out to greet us. I had my headphones on, so I couldn’t hear what folks were saying, and just assumed they were shouting salutations our way. It was amazing that these folks knew I had been a teacher back in 1983, as they were holding signs exclaiming their love for teachers.
Shot down again, I soon realized this outpouring of support wasn’t for Pinky and me at all, it was for the teachers of our neighborhood elementary school. Kids love their teachers, and teachers love their kids. Signs, chalk drawings, laughter, and excitement were in abundance as staff from the school paraded through the neighborhood. It reminded me of a fourth of July parade, but with social distancing. This happened before the governor’s stay-home order.
It occurred to me that times of crisis are expository. Because the one we are in is unfolding slowly, we can take some time to learn from it.
Lesson number one is a reinforcement of the contention that education is about relationships. Upon learning of school closures, the first reaction from my daughter-in-law, who teachers elementary school, was “I’m going to miss my kids.”
A second lesson is that education is capable of change, and it can be done quickly.
We need to soak in what the changes being made will mean after the crisis has passed. We may learn that new, innovative delivery systems are better for some students, or in some circumstances. But the relationship will always be critical.
Another set of lessons is about people.
Anyone who is a fan of popular culture knows that the disaster genre generally revolves around a set of stereotypical characters. Brad Pitt is the heroic scientist in “World War Z,” Dr. Smith is the sniveling coward who only cares for himself in “Lost in Space,” Gandalf the wise elder in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Doc McCoy, the emotion-driven good guy in “Star Trek.” Twitter fans can watch accounts to see where folks fall out in these stereotypical roles in our current world. What I have seen from Kansas educators is way more Brad Pitt and Bones McCoy than Dr. Smith!
A final lesson is at the state level. In Kansas, we have been living the Canned Heat classic “Let’s Work Together.” While some states have also followed this model, others seem to be emulating that old country and western classic, “Long-haired Redneck.” Just change the words, and you have “Where governors stare at superintendents, who are looking at the teachers, who are praying they get out of here alive.”
The work-together spirit of Kansans, from the bipartisan approach of the House and governor to the cooperation and leadership of the State Board and Commissioner, to the can-do attitude of the local school districts and staff, Kansas is a model for how to work through a crisis.
So, throw yourselves a parade, but stay inside, maintain social distancing and wash your hands!