The Education System Needs Trust and Empathy Right Now
Being a parent is a rewarding, entertaining, and pretty spectacular role. It is also exhausting, daunting, and terrifying. Many years ago, I was handed my newborn daughter and in that moment, I was struck by the realization that my life was not my own anymore. When they handed me my next daughter years later, I was too tired to comprehend words, but I assure you that the feeling of awe and obligation was still there. Now, as I hand my children into the arms of the California school system, I must trust with all of my heart that they feel as desperately responsible for my daughter’s future as I do.
This pandemic had wreaked havoc on us all, but our collective children have suffered the most. They have lost parents, family members and friends. They have lost time – time to learn, time to develop, and time to test their wings. They have lost an overall sense of safety. We adults are angry (understandably so), and our actions and words cannot help but show our extreme aggression and resentment. I mean, driving in Los Angeles was never a relaxing endeavor to begin with, but the roads are especially scary and tense today. We adults are fighting in grocery stores, fighting on television, fighting at amusement parks, and fighting at home. And who is absorbing all of this anger and fear like helpless sponges? Our children. School is their escape now and they need us adults, those with children and without, to step up and band together. They need us to suppress our anger and to reject our feelings of resentment and to act as substantial positive role models. The fact is that we must care for ALL of the children in our communities, not just our own, and what that really comes down to is that we adults need to start trusting each other.
As school starts this week, I feel strongly that we must begin practicing and exemplifying how to trust one another again. No matter what side of the fence you are on, you have been told that you cannot trust what you read, what you hear or even what you see with your own eyes. Instead of buying into that divisive, manipulative thinking, we should embrace the opportunity to engage with each other using patience, kindness, and honesty. We need to show empathy for the people and groups that are trying to make a difference and we need to show our children how to do this themselves. How you ask? We can begin to move forward by first believing that our fellow humans do not wish us harm. And I hear you – that is not always true. However, we cannot and should not immediately assume that everyone is a liar or has ill or evil intentions. It is especially essential though that our children do not possess this negative way of thinking. Every one of us is struggling, every one of us has pain and we all need to have empathy for others and the only way to teach empathy is to lead by example and that my friends requires trust. If we begin our interactions believing and trusting that the other person does not wish us harm, then everything else after that will feel more constructive and connected.
Teachers need trust and empathy right now. Principals need trust and empathy right now. Crossing guards, bus drivers, maintenance workers, administrators, counselors, and lunch ladies need trust and empathy right now. The masked, unmasked, vaccinated, and unvaccinated all need trust and empathy right now because there is no one right answer. We need to have confidence that they are doing the absolute BEST that they can and where and when they are unable, well then, we need to come together and offer up various support and resources. This is our village, and our village is extraordinary! I am certain that if you have read everything thus far, you truly care about this village and what happens to it. Won’t you please join me in leading with trust and empathy so that this year is not only incredibly transformational for our community and its youth but that we finally collectively give education and our educators the respect that they truly deserve? Afterall, they are the remarkable human beings who choose to nurture and inspire today’s youth, knowing that their future, is our future. And right now, I trust that the future is looking pretty darn bright.