Friday Focus – 05-01-2020

Dear Team,

Your life is now.

Make no mistake, the global pandemic we are all experiencing right now has completely shaken up our lives and we are all bracing for an impact, though we don’t know when it will come while hoping the worst has passed us by.

But in the midst of these strange new circumstances — ones that have presented me, and all of us, with the greatest challenge of our professional lives — I have seen and heard some of the most beautiful sights and sounds. I’m exploring our city parks, trails and even my backyard more than ever. I am seeing more of my neighbors taking long, rambling walks with their families. I hear children’s laughter echo down my street as their parents play with them in the front yard and see happy dogs being taken on walks, maybe for the first time.

I know this is a time of stress and worry — not the least of which is centered on our students. Are they doing OK? Are they learning? Do they feel emotionally supported? And while we worry about those students who we had hoped to see again before the end of the school year, many of you are also worrying about your own children and if they are falling behind academically while you struggle to keep up with your own work from home.

I understand and share these worries and I am so proud of the work of our Teaching & Learning Department and the platform they’ve designed to keep learning happening. And I’m also proud of our thousands of teachers — and the administrators who support them — who I know are pouring their hearts into this effort. We are designing plans now, for the summer and for next school year, to ensure our students are on track to succeed in school, despite this interruption.

But we also need to remember that we are not alone. The entire world is facing this. And our children are learning from it. This experience in and of itself is valuable. If families use this time wisely, it could be an opportunity where children learn some of the most important lessons of their lives from their very first teachers and the ones they love the most — their parents.

By now, you know that I love music with great lyrics. Inspiring words and melodies always find a way to lift my spirits. Listening to a beautifully written song helps me process feelings and moves me to look at things from a fresh perspective. Recently, while working out at my now favorite gym (my backyard), I heard John Mellencamp’s “Your Life is Now.”

The second verse starts:

Would you teach your children to tell the truth
Would you take the high road if you could choose

And the chorus goes:

Your life is now
Your life is now

In this undiscovered moment
Lift your head up above the crowd

We could shake this world
If you would only show us how

Your life is now

That’s it! In a way, doesn’t it feel like we’re living in suspended reality? But actually, our life is now. And in some ways, our lives now are more precious than ever. I want our parents to know, if you teach your children to tell the truth, if you treasure your time with them, teach them empathy, gratitude, and civic responsibility, I promise, our amazing educators and support staff will take care of the rest. These few weeks won’t be a hindrance to our students if we don’t let them.
Beginning today, Governor Greg Abbott is slowly opening Texas for business. Restaurants and retail stores can now begin opening at 25 percent capacity. In a couple of weeks, that could increase to 50. But I hope we keep 100 percent of what we’ve discovered during this time.

Remember, in these undiscovered moments, your life is now. Let’s make the most of it! Your children are watching and learning!
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Thanks for reading. I’ll write again soon.

Respectfully,

Steve Flores, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Schools