The goal of the SEL Experience Project is to tell the truth– always–even when it doesn’t make for particularly pleasant conversation. Since we started the blog last summer, we’ve had the opportunity to speak informally with parents, students, teachers, administrators, and residents. These conversations have given us a 30,000-foot view of our school district and have put us in the position of having a better understanding of multiple perspectives. That unique insight has also created frustration and concern.
Someone asked us an interesting question this week: who are we trying to reach through the blog? Surely, we have one target audience. We envisioned this blog as speaking to people in the community who might not have a clear understanding of what our SEL School District offers. These could be residents with children in the District, those with children who could go to the District, but don’t, residents without children or empty-nesters who have heard negative things about the schools, or non-residents who have a desire to find out more about our schools because they are looking for housing or are selling real estate in the area and want to be better informed. That’s a pretty big audience, and a pretty big challenge. After doing this for a while, we found that we have been reaching lots of teachers and administrators as well. We realized that they needed support and encouragement to deal with the negative perception issues as just much as parents and community members.
After speaking with all these folks, we know one thing for sure: everyone wants the best for our kids. We are operating from a place of common ground, and that means so much. We all want our kids to succeed and achieve their dreams. We all feel proud when we read about the great things our students and former students are doing. They’re OUR kids. That’s what’s important here.
It’s been a rough year. Feelings have been hurt. People with good intentions on all sides feel misunderstood, victimized, and wounded. Because of this hurt, relationships have broken down resulting in a toxic disconnect between our teachers and our administration. We fear that this is starting to hurt OUR kids, and could undo some of the good that has been done to move the district forward. A house divided, soon falls. There is no “us” and “them”, only “we”. We need to find true common ground–a place of respect and mutual understanding. Parents and students find themselves in middle. The danger is that some of the parties involved, be they teachers, parents, or administrators, will give up and leave, making it even harder to move forward in the most positive way. We’re at a tipping point and our kids need us all to be at the top of our game. Picture a three-legged stool: the legs are made up of teachers, administrators, and parents. The students are balanced on the top and are being held up by those three legs. If one leg starts to give way, the whole thing falls apart. No one group can hold it all together. We have to work together.
We have an opportunity here to show our kids how adults can solve difficult problems, hopefully by working together out of a place of mutual respect. How do we fix this together? Tell us your thoughts and ideas. Our kids are worth it.