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  • Pam Koutrakos

Looking Ahead with Belief, Compassion, and Hope

I recently read Can we stop telling the ‘corona kids’ how little they are learning? (published in the Washington Post). After many weeks of immersing myself in texts sharing methods for virtual learning and models for reopening, I appreciated the message of the author’s words. Valerie Strauss asks readers to rethink the language we use and labels we are putting on young people. She reminds us of the importance of thinking beyond traditional academics, nudging us to rethink possibilities and rework priorities for the fall: “If we use words such as ‘welcome’ and ‘wonder,’ and if we acknowledge and appreciate the learning they must have done, how will they orient to new learning challenges?” I am ready to respond to this necessary call to action. Here are three ways I plan to keep awe-filled wonder in mind as I close out this school year and look toward wholeheartedly welcoming colleagues and students in the next:

Listening more. I will to seek out community stakeholders and listen to what is happening in the heads and hearts of students, family members, teachers, support staff, and administrators. I look forward to these ongoing conversations. I will resist the temptation to teach, suggest, or solve. Instead, I will prioritize listening.

Reading more. Reading helps me feel more prepared to face fear and anxiety amidst unknowns. Right now, there are many unknowns ahead. The reading I plan to do prioritizes learning more about being a part of trauma-informed school communities, antiracist advocacy, and social-emotional learning. I know that previous reading and work done in these areas has been a start but is not sufficient. I need to continue to grow. I want to learn to do better. Reading will be a part of this process. I’ve already started curating this summer’s stack.

Connecting more. I hope to build and bolster strong connections in the fall. I plan to prepare by working on myself. I believe it is essential that we share and celebrate learning and growth that is not tied to specific school subjects and that has happened outside of school. Therefore, I recognize that if I continue to focus the majority of my time on traditional academic pursuits, that part of me that is not fully embracing this idea (AKA- I would be talking the talk and not walking the walk). So, although I acknowledge the time I will be working and taking grad school classes this summer, I will also prioritize spending time in deeply steeped in non-academic explorations. My mother always said, “Grades don't make a happy life.” I believe this with all my heart and soul, and I intend to pursue the essence of this truth.

What ideas do you have for enthusiastically welcoming learners each day and highlighting who they are right now? How will you find active and consistent ways to celebrate all kinds of learning? Please share your ideas and insights and don't forget to tag @drgravitygllc. Here’s to starting now, as we close out this year— and also to looking ahead with continued belief, compassion, and hope.

Thank you for all you continue to do for yourself, students, and each other.

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