UFEA President Lindsey Dickinson welcomes UFEA members and the Unit 5 community to the 2020-21 school year, reminding us there are blank pages in front of us and challenging us to write our new story — together.
Remarks as prepared
Welcome to a new school year!
My name is Lindsey Dickinson and I have the privilege of serving as the president of the Unit Five Education Association.
Whether you are one of my union family members from UFEA, a Unit 5 employee, an administrator or member of the Board of Education, welcome back to another school year — one that will be unlike any we have ever experienced!
As I’ve talked with people this summer — parents, colleagues and community members — I’ve often been asked what this year is going to be like.
There’s only one answer I can offer with any confidence. Different.
This year is going to be different.
Our year will start behind computer screens rather than in classrooms and schools with our students.
Our faces will often be covered by masks.
Our students will be learning from their own homes or other remote locations.
Our school buildings will be much emptier — and quieter.
We won’t get to experience the noise, energy and excitement we normally hear and feel at the start of a school year — at least not yet.
And, this year will be challenging.
We’ll be changing the way we plan lessons and deliver instruction.
We’ll be finding new ways to collaborate with our colleagues.
We’ll be trying to provide the same excellent instruction and support in an environment we know makes that nearly impossible.
We’ll be managing new communication challenges with students and families.
We’ll be navigating a transition to new devices — soon! — and new software.
We’ll have students we care deeply about who are learning in environments that lack proper connectivity, care and support.
And we’ll be working through increased levels of uncertainty and anxiety — our own, and of those we care about, including our students and their families.
But, thankfully, some things will remain the same.
We will still care deeply about our students.
We will still compassionately partner with our students to support their growth and learning.
We will still collaborate with our colleagues to improve at the craft we love.
If anyone can overcome the hurdles we face, it’s the members of the Unit Five Education Association.
You’ve been working all spring and summer to find creative ways to connect with students and to educate them effectively — and safely.
You purchased supplies — like PVC pipes and plexiglass to build dividers — on your own dime, to create safe school and classroom spaces in anticipation for returning to in-person instruction.
You engaged in professional development, on your own time, and discovered resources to be prepared to teach remotely, or in a hybrid model, or in-person with protocols and precautions necessitated by a pandemic.
You’ve re-aligned curriculum and re-imagined how it could be delivered.
You developed and learned creative ways to care for our students — wholly — and to engage them in social-emotional learning lessons and opportunities.
YOU ARE ALL AMAZING … despite what anyone tells you — or fails to tell you — and despite what anyone posts about you on social media.
We are embarking on a school year in the middle of a pandemic, mired in some of the most divisive politics we can remember, and in the midst of a struggle for people — especially our Black colleagues, students, and families — to feel heard and represented.
The coming days, weeks and months are important. The future of public education and our students depend on us.
As always, our students need us to be their educators, teachers, psychologists, social workers, counselors, media specialists, speech language pathologists, therapists, and nurses — AND — they need us to be role models.
As Toni Morrison said, “You are your own stories and therefore free to imagine and experience what it means to be human… And although you don’t have complete control over the narrative — no author does, I can tell you — you could nevertheless create it”.
This year, full of uncertainty and unknowns, provides us an opportunity — to rewrite the narrative, to write our own story, to fill the blank pages before us — together.
When we are unsure about what lies ahead or what impact will come as COVID spreads, let’s remain resilient.
When our students face fears or frustrations, let’s foster those relationships and do what nobody is better prepared to do — guide them, lead them and teach them.
When those same students find their voice and speak out against hate and oppression, let’s listen, amplify their voices and lift them up.
When our nerves are frayed, our anxiety is up, and our proverbial plates are full, let’s be gracious and flexible — with ourselves and each other.
When we face disappointing feedback, demoralizing rhetoric, or difficult bargaining — which has taken longer than we’d hoped, despite our best effort in the spring and summer — let’s stand up together, speak out together and stick together.
Sometimes the days ahead look dangerous and difficult. Sometimes it seems it would be easier to give up before we start. But we can’t give up — our students are depending on us and giving up is not what the members of UFEA do! We respond to uncertainty by pulling together and leaning on each other.
None of us have been through something like this.
But we will get through this together. Because we are all in this together.
We are stronger when we are united. And anything can happen when everyone shows up.
I’m in this for the long haul with you all. Will you join me? A blank first page is in front of us.
Let’s write this new story — together.
The UFEA President has this opportunity to address members and staff as a result of our negotiated agreement with the district:
5.12 Opening Day Remarks
If an opening day institute is held, the president of the Association or designee shall be granted a reasonable amount of speaking time for the purpose of welcoming the staff.