• Jody Kussin

#51 Family Matters Dear Teachers...

In These Times by Dr. Jody Kussin, May 4, 2020

How many graduations have you been to? I did a quick mom math calculation and I think I’ve sat through about 198 of them. That said, I can honestly say I don’t remember details of just about any of them.

What is not memorable to me are the speakers, the pomp and circumstance, the selected songs, who won which awards, and the weather (either exceedingly hot or out of the blue inexplicably pouring cats and dogs.)

What is memorable is how we inevitably do not have a working camera or charged phone among us and how we are always calling or texting around afterwards to ask, ‘did you happen to get a photo of our son.daughter.nephew.niece?’

What is also memorable, though, is the marking of a milestone, surrounded by family, friends, and a community of learners. What is memorable is the diversity of the audiences, with parents who themselves did not have opportunity for formal education. And of course, the focus on the future and ‘what’s next?’ for the graduates, being Head Start preschoolers or M.S. candidates in Public Health.

This year, none of us has any real sense of ‘what’s next.’ We are counting up instead of counting down….count down to major life events has always been a part of our collective, but in these times, we count up….this is the 51st little column I’ve written, for instance – and I was already sheltering at home a week or so before I started writing to hold on to a bit of sanity. So – counting up in dog years, I’ve been home now for 365 days, or, approximately, one year.

What’s next? Where do we all go now?

First, I think we need to look back a sec and offer thanks.

Dear Teacher, Coach, Scout Leader, Principal, Therapist, Tutor, Special Education Department, Babysitter, Pediatrician, Rabbi, Pastor, etc.

Thank you for being part of the team that got our child to this moment and to this graduation. In these unusual times, one thing that stands out is your commitment to raising up the next generation. We appreciate your availability and flexibility and how you SAW our child and ensured they were not invisible. We appreciate how you recognized their strengths and how you worked with them under challenging circumstances, prioritizing their learning and their well-being. We have great empathy for you and how you ‘rolled with it’ but did not disappear or ghost anyone over all these years, and in particular, over these recent weeks. Thanks.

Thank you for helping our child grow more and more into their own self, inhabiting their mind, heart, and body. Thank you for igniting a sense of wonder and for not stifling questions. Thank you for making a safe space and for teaching a whole child. Thank you for instilling both curiosity and confidence and for allowing for mistakes, errors, and failures, without shaming or bullying.

We don’t know how you pulled this off, whether we have a preschool, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, high school, college, or graduate school graduate. Perhaps one of the greatest gifts you’ve provided is a genuine human connection and attachment. You got to know our children as individuals, in some ways, better than we know them. After all, you spent hours upon hours with them. You’ve nurtured their friendships and social skills, seen them on their best and worst days, and gotten a sliver of a sense of us, their parents, mostly through their eyes.

We are grateful you provided our children with a foundation and roots and that you prepared them for whatever it is that comes next. They will leave behind one form of confusion for another, and also, one kind of community for another. Graduation comes from the Latin meaning ‘step.’ Regardless of what comes next, we will be with our children as they take their next step, and their next. And we will recall with appreciation all of your help and support as they start taking steps just beyond your sphere. You all made mini miracles every day. Often you were literally feeding our children while also trying to teach complex math formulas. You were managing health conditions (theirs and yours) and distractions (theirs and yours) and together, as part of the circle it takes to reach milestones, these coming weeks are not only celebrations for the graduates, but they are also tributes to you all.

Congratulations to the upcoming graduates. May you feel your own sense of pride and accomplishment and take a breath and pat yourself on the back. You did it. And we are so proud.

And congratulations to the families of the graduates. Phewf. You did it. And we, the community, are so proud.

Mostly, though, honestly, congratulations to all educators, those with the title of teacher and all the others as well. You provide a service to the planet, and we are honored you’ve touched the lives of our children and you help shape our future. Whatever is next, the steps they take are on a road you built. Thank you.

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