The Friday Finish…ON A SUNDAY

Super Sunday Evening, Irvington Family! I wish to thank you for your patience with me as I finally released the first Friday Finish! I’d like to provide full disclosure: I truly wrestled with what I wanted to say! I have never been one to be at a loss for words, but believe me, there’s a lot going on that has occupied my time since we were all together on July 20. So…This Volume 2, Issue #1 of the Friday Finish is sort of an “Open Letter” to each of you.

I’d like to begin with a general statement that I’ll try to delve deeper into without taking up too much of your time tonight. Education as we once knew it is no longer recognizable and isn’t coming back. Why?

  1. The general “assault” or “war” or politicization of our chosen field (pre-COVID) took its toll education as it related to parents withdrawing their support of the traditional public and charter movements. High-stakes testing, unfunded mandates, “flavor of the day/semester/year programs,” inconsistent application of policy and statutes regarding student promotion/retention, and a decline of university students majoring in teacher preparation at a time where Baby Boomers were becoming eligible for retirement consideration should have sounded an alarm…
  2. The continuation of #1, then exacerbated with COVID and a period of quarantine and homebound study, added arsenic to the already-toxic brew of apathy and complacency. Our students and their families were thrust into an unfamiliar sea of homebound, computer-based instruction with very little preparation and oversight. The entire education world was rocked to its very foundation, with states enacting “no retention policies” and blanket promotions, regardless if any academic coursework was mastered, let alone completed or even attempted. Post-secondary institutions were at a loss, with undergraduate and graduate admissions offices across the country waiving ACT/SAT/GRE/MAT for admission.
  3. Once the specter of #2 passed, we welcomed students back into our schools for direct instruction after an absence of anywhere from 10-20 months. Any semblance of routine, processes, structure, and self-discipline from students K-16 was reportedly AWOL. THEN…
  4. Related to #3, the “Great Resignation” hit us, with over half of teachers across the United States calling it quits at the end of the 2021-22 school year, if not before, citing the problems identified in #3, in addition to the dramatically low pay that was not keeping up with the rising cost of living across America. Our colleagues were faced with making major life decisions at the gas pump and at the grocery store. “Should I fill up and eat Ramen Noodles for 14 days, or can I put $20 in the tank and feed the family well until next payday?” were very real silent discussions.
  5. Then, related to #4, the very real issue of teachers/administrators/educators considering leaving the field as you read this is very real. Since July 20, I’ve given principals an article entitled “Principals are on the verge of mental breakdowns” and provided beginning teachers with an article highlighting that recent trend data suggest that 44% of them leave the profession after their first year (a change from 50% leaving after their 3rd year).

So…Where does this leave us?

I would like to call your attention back to our chat during Opening Day Convocation and remind you and our associates across the nation of something: Each of us, for this unique day and time, are right where we are supposed to be. I am uncertain of what your professors of education told you in your preparation programs, but I vividly remember each of mine saying that “If you’re in this to get rich, to pile up individual accolades, & enjoy the overwhelming respect and support of the general populace, let me show you to the Registrar’s Office so you can fill out a “change of major” form! I remember well the last time I heard that speech. It was in 2012 as I was working on doctoral coursework in North Carolina, as a principal contemporary of mine was lamenting the lack of respect she was getting from parents and others in her community who questioned virtually everything that she and her staff did. I remember her saying “How can they hold me/us accountable for students reaching standards if they’re coming to me as sixth graders reading on 2nd-4th grade level?”

Good question, indeed. But we can never blame the student for the circumstances and policies governing promotion, retention, and placement. What we can do, then, is provide that student and others who are “ahead of the game” with consistent, daily, excellent, innovative, ingenious, thought-provoking, motivating, data-driven, and culturally-responsive and respectful instruction, with the focus being on working to facilitate the academic and intellectual growth of the student from July 25 until we part ways with them for 7 weeks on May 25, 2023.

This is what we do in Irvington, and that’s what makes the “Irvington Way” more than a trendy catchphrase.

As we move into week #5, know that what each of you do for our students is a noble endeavor and is appreciated. We must stay the course and remain focused on what we’ve all been gifted to do-Make a DIFFERENCE in the lives of a child! Remember when we said, “We are here to change the lives of the children and families ONE STUDENT, ONE FAMILY, ONE NEIGHBORHOOD AT A TIME!” We are not succumbing to pressure; Rather, we are, as our teenage/young adult students and children like to say, PRESSURE (look that one up)!

Don’t give up, and don’t give in. Lean on each other and lean on me, as I’m here for each of you and we should be there to support and encourage one another!  There are so many exciting things coming to Irvington Community Schools that will invigorate PK-12 practices and the practitioners who serve our students in the months to come. The time is right and the folks who will help to invigorate ICS are reading this letter!

See you soon,