These Aren’t Normal Times for Schools

I remember when I was a teacher and our staff voted for a calendar that started earlier in August but included a Fall Break between quarters 1 and 2. That was such a nice break for all of us, and a few years later, the State Department of Education decided that all schools would be on the same calendar with an earlier start date and a break between quarters. So we had a Fall Break, a Winter Break, and a Spring Break. I loved that schedule!

Fall Break was a popular time for Hawaii families to take trips. It was ideal to visit places like Disneyland. Because mainland students were still in school, wait lines for popular rides were much shorter. Unfortunately, this year, most families will not be vacationing or leaving the islands during Fall Break which starts next week. If they  do, they will have to quarantine for 14 days when they return. I’m sure many family plans were disrupted by COVID-19, and we had certainly hoped the pandemic would be under control by now. But it’s not, and that has also impacted schools.

I’m pretty sure I know what many teachers will be doing this Fall Break. They’ll be at home working on plans for the next quarter. Many will continue teaching virtually or remotely during the second quarter, and the lessons they learned during the first quarter will determine how to continue instruction so their students will be engaged and motivated. In this morning’s Civil Beat article, “Hawaii DOE Has Struggled To Cope With the Pandemic: Can It Do Better?”, Board of Education Chairperson Catherine Payne states, “We did not use the spring shutdown to do the planning and training that was needed for the opening of school in August.” The constant changing of information certainly did not help educators, students, or parents who had to pivot at the last minute from in-person instruction to virtual learning. The first quarter is almost over, and second quarter is right around the corner.
As a retired principal, I know that teachers will do what they need to do to get ready. They’ll do it even without any extra compensation, but schools and the Hawaii DOE  need to recognize that providing professional development stipends will really help to rebuild the trust that teachers feel has been lost. I’ve read their comments in articles and on social media, and I know they feel exhausted and unappreciated. Those who will be spending their Fall Break planning for the next quarter should be compensated. I know that when I was a principal, our teachers appreciated the time to collaborate and plan with their teams during the summer prior to the start of school; a stipend for their time was a bonus.

I also wanted to give a shout-out to all the educators who have gone above and beyond for their students. I am sure it was not easy, but you made it through the first quarter! These aren’t normal times for schools, but you made it work for your students, and I’m sure that in the process, you learned a lot about yourself and your resiliency. Enjoy your Fall Break!