For multiple reasons, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Good food, time with family, cooler weather and less commercialism. Other than when I was a little child, the whole “present/gift thing” associated with birthdays and other holidays has never been something I enjoy. I’d rather have the time and the experiences with those I love than any material item.
At Thanksgiving, we all take the time to thank those who help make our lives a bit easier. That is the intent of this letter - to thank all those who support our schools, particularly our staff.
Whenever I meet with groups around the district, I make a point to acknowledge our wonderful students, parents and community. Eanes ISD is a special place. As one who has worked in six different school districts over many years, I know how supportive this community is in creating an environment where children can learn and teachers can teach.
It is true the high expectations in Eanes ISD lead to excellence. But let us not forget this standard can also be very demanding. We have come to expect excellent academics and the best in the arts, athletics and special programs, starting at a very young age.
Our staff make the magic in Eanes ISD a reality. Teaching and supporting our children is HARD WORK. The last two dozen months have tested us all on every level. Never has the job been more challenging. But our staff - from the cafeteria worker, teacher, aide, bus driver to the principals - have allowed our children the best opportunities possible over the last year and a half. We have stayed open; we have supported our kids and we have thrived, despite all of the obstacles thrown in our path.
When I meet with staff, I always start or end the conversation by saying, “thank you.” Thank you on behalf of the children and our community. Our staff have truly been heroes for a long time and the pandemic has only made their efforts shine brighter.
So, in this time of Thanksgiving, might I ask we all thank someone who dedicates themselves to serving the needs of our children? Working in schools is a true calling and we have the very best professionals in Eanes ISD.
In speaking with staff recently, they have hesitantly admitted they are still struggling with the pandemic. As our schools and communities hope for a return to pre-pandemic normalcy, many staff concede they need grace and understanding from administration, colleagues and parents.
They are not looking for stock options but understanding. Here are four themes we have heard this year:
#4: Say the words “Thank You” as much as possible. Yes, staff make mistakes. Yes, sometimes we will lose a ball game. Yes, there have been learning challenges during the pandemic. In our hearts, however, we all know everyone is trying very hard to do their best and to improve our situation. A few more “thank yous” in the world will make it a much better place.
#3: Respect. Relationships matter. In solid relationships, there is trust and respect. We need a little more of that these days. “Do no harm” is not just unique to the Hippocratic Oath; our teachers also genuinely care for their students. When something inadvertent or unintentional occurs, we will work together to learn from it and move forward together. I do not believe our staff would ever make a mistake intentionally. And in a rare case, where someone does make a mistake, we will do all we can to correct the situation.
#2: Time matters. Children, particularly as they get older, need to learn to advocate for themselves. Of course, we know parents will always want the best for their kids, but our staff want the best for their students, too. When possible, allow our teachers to focus on their work with students rather than expecting an immediate response to emails. When an email or a phone call is needed, please allow our staff reasonable time to answer before escalating. Again, remember teachers are doing the best they can.
In discussions in District Leadership Team meetings and in last night’s board meeting, we suggested there may be some time built into the calendar to help support our staff’s request for time to plan, review data, collaborate with colleagues and more. We listened to their call for help and hope to build more time into upcoming school calendars.
#1: Trust our teachers and give them some grace. If you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right, it probably isn’t. Sometimes stories on social media are amplified and not quite accurate. Please do not overreact and assume the worst without the facts. Remember, our teachers truly care about kids, and the last thing a teacher or principal wants to do is impair a student’s progress or potential. When in doubt, speak to the person directly about your concern.
To close... THANK YOU to all reading this message. While we may not agree on everything, I think we all can agree being grateful for our blessings is worth the time it takes. During this Thanksgiving season, thank your friends and family who are special to you. And please consider taking some time to appreciate the people who make Eanes ISD special for so many.