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I am writing a prequel to my email to address the latest school shooting. My wife is an educator and she told me that when she entered the profession she did not think that she might have to be like a law enforcement officer or military personnel and shield kids from being shot. Unfortunately, that is our current reality.

Here is what I wrote to our staff in the aftermath of the shooting. If I was to add anything to this message it is this: we cannot forget compassion. People are hurting in this world right now and educators must take it upon ourselves to set the example of using compassion to understand everyone's reality.

Here is my message to our staff:

As you know, there was a mass school shooting in an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas yesterday. So far, 19 students and 2 adults have died as a result of this senseless act of violence. 

I started teaching in 1992. I got into teaching because I wanted to help kids and the community in which they lived. I did not think about school violence on the scale that we have become accustomed to in our society. 

I know all of you became teachers, therapists, consultants, and support staff because of your intrinsic need to make the world better in the life of a child. Unlike soldiers, police officers, and other law enforcement officials, you did not sign up for working in conditions that potentially place you in physical danger. Unfortunately, we live in a time and place where that is our reality.

I can't make sense of what is happening to our schools regarding mass shootings. At times, I am paralyzed about what we can do to make our schools (and our world) a better place.

We have to start somewhere and I think we can start with one simple act... 

We can act with love and grace in everything that we do. In our politically polarized society, it is imperative that we recognize each other as human beings. Humans are not "labels" placed on us by society. We are humans with a soul. We cannot forget this. All of us bring our own unique joys, pains, and sorrows to our daily life. Let's interact as if we are trying to understand each other and not judge each other.

I am sending all of you my love and support as we finish this school year. It seems trite to say that, but I want you to know that I appreciate the work you are doing under extremely trying conditions.

Stay safe,
Now for the regular newsletter
Good Morning <<First Name>>,

Happy Memorial Day! The unofficial first weekend of summer is here and not a moment too soon. I want to share two conversations I had this week that will form the basis for the theme of today's newsletter.

I talked to a teacher who told me that she has noticed a dramatic increase in the intensity of rude behavior coming from kids. She commented that is almost like they either don't care if they are being rude and disrespectful, or they don't realize their behavior is rude and disrespectful

The second conversation was with a veteran Board member. He told me that he has been on the school board for 25 years and the Board president for over 12 years. He said that he had never used the gavel as a Board president until this year...and he has had to use it multiple times in each meeting over the past 8 months. His comment was that "People are just acting rude and believe they can bully us [the board] into doing what they want."

So, two people noticeing the same behavior. One from the kids and one from the adults. Hmmm...

Freedom from Consequences?

I read an interesting article that helped me make sense of the two stories I heard this week. The author's argument is that people are mistaking "freedom of speech" for the lack of consequences for your speech. In other words, people think they can be rude, impolite, and a bully and not realize any consequences of their remarks. If they get in trouble for their remarks they claim victimhood and state they are being "canceled." 

We are going to deal with people who do not believe they should face consequences for their speech and actions...both with learners in our schools, and the community at large. As learner-centered leaders, we lead with compassion, grace, and love. We lead with those attributes but that does not mean we lead with weakness. Pointing out to people in real-time when they are being rude, and helping learners navigate the consequences of their actions and speech will be an important part of what we do in the upcoming school year.

We know the effects of the pandemic are just starting to be seen in our schools and society at large. People being isolated and kids being away from the learning environment of school were not good things. We need to reset expectations for how we talk with each other. Learner-centered leaders can lead the reset.
Teachers Leaving The Profession
An ancillary effect of the bullying and rudeness that is entering our schools is the exodus of teachers from the profession. In this article, I learned about how dire the situation is becoming. I intuitively knew there was a problem since we are having a difficult time finding applicants for positions, but hearing it in the context of the entire nation was still eye-opening.

There are 567,000 fewer public school teachers right now in the United States than when the pandemic started. For every teacher opening in America, there are .57 applicants. You saw that correctly, less than one applicant per open position. Yikes!

There is so much trauma and angst in our society right now. Learner-centered leaders must reset the culture of their schools to create an open, caring place where both learners and adults want to be. 

What can you do to start "resetting" your school?
Our Job To Do
The Daily Coach is one of my go-to newsletters. Let's think about this for a moment.

In moments of chaos, darkness, devastation and unrest, the transformational leaders and positive difference-makers become the guiding light for resilient empathy and truth-seeking solutions. Realize, our words must be manifested in our daily behavior. Anything short of that, and we are living and perpetuating a lie, while failing the leaders of tomorrow.

All of us have an opportunity to bend the arc of history for our learners, schools, and society.

This is hard work.

We are all exhausted.

But who else will do it?

There is a saying that "all politics is local." Well, I think  that all lasting change is local. We can start by taking the actions necessary to make the world a better place where we live and work.

We can create a compassionate school that teaches kids grace, love, and respect for themselves and each other

We can support each other as we link arms and start to reset our schools

We can learn to take care of ourselves and each other.

Take a break this summer. Try to recharge. But understand, the hard work of resetting schools is just beginning!
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