Sunday, May 3, 2020

May 3 Update

Dear Colleagues,

I hope this message finds you well.  As you may know, I have a 7th grade son.  He has not been feeling well this past week because he has been dealing with a head cold.  I was proud of him this past Tuesday because he got himself out of bed so he can be ready for a morning Zoom session scheduled by his teacher despite the fact he was feeling lousy.  Not only did he get himself out of bed, he got himself up early enough to shower and put on his nicest hoodie because he wanted to look good on Zoom.  Shortly before the session started, I saw him on the couch with his laptop open.  Since it looked like he was ready to go, my wife and I went to our own spaces to do my own Zoom meetings.  Thirty minutes later, I returned and found my son fast asleep on the coach with the laptop still open.  He completely missed the Zoom session.

He woke in a state of panic.  He was worried that he missed important instructions, and he was upset because all that preparation was for naught.  Mostly, he was upset because he was convinced that he had disappointed his teacher, and she would think he did not care.

After he calmed himself down, we received an email message sent from the teacher to my son, and both my wife and I were cc’ed on it.  My son was devastated when he read the email because he felt his nightmare had come true.  He interpreted the message as the teacher was telling him that she was disappointed in him for not being part of the Zoom session.  When I read the message the first thought that popped in my head was, “For heaven's sake, the kid was not feeling well.  He just needs some time to get himself together, and he will be back at it tomorrow.”  However, I soon took off my parent hat to replace it with my principal hat and remembered I have often asked the McCall teachers and staff to please contact parents and guardians if their students are not engaging in Distance Learning activities.  After reading the teacher’s message through a different lens, I realized the message was written and sent out of care and concern for my boy.  I also marveled at how efficiently she reached out to me.

I mention all of this because if you happen to be on the receiving end of one or more emails from my staff I hope that you will receive them knowing that the intention is not to shame or judge or criticize.  We do feel compelled to inform parents of student engagement, and to offer any care and support that we can, fully recognizing that one more email may be the last thing that you need right now.  I’ve communicated with many of you this past week and I know my family is not alone in having had a tough week.  In addition to the expected grief and anxiety of the school closure lasting through the rest of the year, many of you are managing much more serious concerns about jobs, finances, and physical and emotional health.  As we try to figure out the right level of communication, it’s clear that one approach will definitely not work for all families.  If you happen to be in a place where more regular communication about how your child is engaging with learning, please let me know.  You can also let me know if frequent emails are triggering bursts of colorful language in your heads. I can work with the teachers and staff to find a frequency of updates that does not add to anyone’s stress levels.

I thank all of you to your continued support of the work my staff have been doing.  More importantly, I thank everyone for recognizing that as imperfect as our work may be, we are all trying very hard to meet the needs of every McCall student.

As for my son, he is well judging by how the much fun he is having Fortnighting with his buddies online as I type this message.

Thank you and be well!

James Lin
McCall Middle School

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