WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
After a long hiatus, Assistant Superintendent, Mary Lou Sallee, and I are back in the blogosphere, and are aiming for bi-weekly posts to start the year off right!
The school year is off to a great start, despite last week’s grueling heat. As we toured the buildings, we could feel the positive energy, the excitement, and the commitment to learning that our exceptional staff expresses on a daily basis. And seeing the smiling, laughing, and sometimes nervous faces of all of our students certainly eased our summer adieus.
New Faculty and Staff. As you may be aware, teachers return for two days of meetings, professional development, and mobilization around the district’s key, pre-K through 12 priorities, just prior to the long Labor Day weekend. And prior to that we welcome and orient our new faculty and staff- over forty this year- an exciting addition of new talent, energy and ideas for our four schools. Among these are three new assistant principals, and two seasoned educators filling new positions- K-12 English Language Learner Program Director, and K-12 Guidance Director, about whom I will share more information in a subsequent blog post.
Heartfelt. One of the most moving sessions that I sat in on, as I navigated my way past the carefully fenced off construction staging area at Davis School, included all of the guidance and special education staff, as well as the teachers of our “specials” like library and music. In a ritual that is repeated annually, the group reviewed a long list of students identified as needing some special, “from the start” attention to ensure a successful school year. Whether academically challenged, emotionally struggling, socially disconnected or physically impaired, each student was reviewed in a two way sharing- one to inform the teachers about the students who will be in their classes, and two, to invite the teachers, who see all of the students over the course of the year, to brainstorm with the support staff about how to best meet the students’ needs.
I have rarely felt so much love expressed in one room! The depth of knowledge about each child that these educators possessed, and the thoughtful, deeply caring way that they discussed how to help him or her move forward in the new year, were nothing short of awe inspiring.
The following example, names changed, captures the spirit of the conversation, which lasted for several hours, as the team worked through an extensive list of students both in regular education and with special education IEPs. “Let’s talk next about Felix. He has shown some patterns of dysregulation throughout the year, and he tends to self-isolate,” began the special education program administrator. “Yes, Felix,” chimed in the music teacher, “the Felix with the green eyes, he’s such a love. He could definitely use a male buddy to help him feel like he belongs.” “I know just the student,” responded the librarian- Damion- “he would definitely take him under his wing. Plus, they both really like legos.”
Educating children, of all ages, is an act of love. Our faculty and staff pour their hearts into their work and into their students. A wonderful colleague of mine from another district wrote a poem that I think expresses this beautifully- the deeply felt hope and expectations that our families feel, the awesome responsibility entrusted to our educators… one that Bedford’s educators take ever so deeply to heart. JS
One by one the tidy classrooms across the courtyard
are going black. Parents filter out toward their cars
and headlights flicker across the windows.
But there she is at my desk, smiling out of a shapeless coat.
It isn’t just the heavy Russian accent that makes it hard.
I lean my head toward what she has to say
about her daughter Katya with, I see now, the same shy smile--
her daughter Katya who, too, lingers at my desk after class.
She burns a trail of smoky words: Katya loves reading very much,
she has problem with hearing -- she wants to write like Tolstoi --
she liked so much last year’s English teacher--
I thank him thank him for the rest of my life.
When she breaks off, eyes eager at my face,
I pull my head back, clearing for a smooth landing,
but the sentences I pave out about the course, about Katya’s progress,
somehow crumble and fall away.
Her forehead wrinkles; she veers sideways and lifts off again,
circling back over the territory, words thick and halting.
I watch but cannot follow
though I try until the halls are dark.
On the drive home the mother’s words are large-winged moths
that brush soft bodies against my hair
and flutter thinly at the windshield.
Suddenly I see the nonsense of my replies.
“Please,” she’d been saying, racing against the custodian,
rattling his keys as he came, snapping off lights.
“Please,” she had said, those keys jangling toward my door --
“Can you love my child?”