We are not enemies but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
~President Abraham Lincoln from his First Inaugural Address in 1861.
What did Abraham Lincoln mean by the better angels of our nature? William Shakespeare apparently first coined the term. By the time President Lincoln spoke of it, the country was deeply divided.
…“our better angels” was a figure of speech familiar to many citizens of the United States. The phrase would have called forth the notions of enlightened, calm, and virtuous judgment—the best guides to sensible and honorable conduct in any person or nation.
During this perilous time for the country and education, and during this season meant for coming together and caring for each other, as this year comes to a close, we should look to the better angels of our nature when it comes to schools.
Americans must make sound decisions based on science when it comes to opening schools. Patience and sincere consideration about students, teachers, and their schools must rule.
President-elect Biden should not rush to reopen schools until he can assure students’ and teachers’ safety. His choice of Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona seems decent. Dr. Cardona has many admirable features, but Connecticut teachers have voiced concern about his leanings to keep schools open in that state during the pandemic. Here’s hoping he works directly with teachers and parents regarding how schooling should safely work during the pandemic.
In most places, teachers are covering material and working online to reach students, and some schools have had in-person classes, or teachers have taught hybrid classes. From normal school days to remote learning, teachers jumped onto a different track last spring to connect with students.
Teachers also continue to work in situations that might not be safe.
Epidemiologists and pediatricians may understand the virus, but they probably haven’t been in a school for years. It’s hard to know if they understand what teaching in an old building involves. School infrastructure is still a concern, and it might not be easy to open windows and keep schools clean and students socially distanced.
While districts tried to remedy lousy ventilation systems and an antiquated school infrastructure system that should have been fixed years ago, teachers have followed the best protocol to keep their students’ families safe.
Teachers have also been rebuked, even blamed for the pandemic and wanting to stay safe. This CNN education writer describes this phenomenon well. Teachers have died of this disease and teachers are also leaving the profession due to their concerns about the virus and school safety.
Teachers who have gone easy on grades, who have encouraged their students and brought humor into the picture, have brought out their inner kindness. Teachers are remarkable.
Many parents support teachers in big and small ways. They’ve assisted with their child’s learning and have worked with teachers to teach developmentally and the right things.
Parents have worked with school boards and sought ways to keep students and teachers safe. They attended Zoom panels about school reopenings. They have worked tirelessly to see that teachers and families in their communities are given the support they need.
They’ve struggled, too, especially parents of children with disabilities. These parents need increased support at home and in-person school when it is safe. School districts must continue to seek ways for teachers to connect to children with disabilities and all children.
Also, many parents are out of work, and they need help here too. Schools must continue to work with community resources to ensure that the needs of families are met.
Young children who try their best to sit still behind screens when their little bodies and minds want to move around, play with friends, jump on a playground, need special consideration during this confusing time. Play and access to lovely, funny picture books will go a long way to helping them grow despite the pandemic.
Older students in middle, high school, and college, who forfeited proms and graduations, also found new ways to connect and learn. The country should be proud of its young people.
While it isn’t perfect, and nothing will replace the importance of in-person learning inside a brick-and-mortar school, America’s students are still working and moving towards their goals.
It’s important to question outside reports that claim that children are falling behind. Who is determining this, and how? Behind what? Read Stephen Singer’s Kids Are NOT Falling Behind. They Are Surviving a Pandemic.
Question attempts to profit on programs that capitalize on learning loss during the pandemic. Adults create the educational standards in this country, and adults can work to reach students in meaningful ways with understanding and compassion.
So, as we continue into this holiday season, look to our better natures, reach out and work the best that can be done with those who differ from us. Continue to keep students and teachers safe, and enjoy the friendship and camaraderie of friends and family during this unprecedented time.
Thank you to those who read my blog posts, and don’t forget, there’s a website here, a work in progress, with links that might be helpful during the pandemic.