GUEST COLUMN: It’s all about connections
Eric Fox, Associate Principal, Jenks High School
Two things people who know me are already aware of: 1. I’m not very handy when it comes to self-repairs and 2: I’m frugal – which is a way to avoid having to admit I’m cheap. So, recently when we had an issue with a toilet at our house, I was determined to fix it myself. Wasn’t YouTube created for home repairs? After a long stretch of getting the water shut off, replacement parts installed and turning the water back on, it happened. The minor leak I was trying to fix was now a major leak. The more I tried to correct one issue, the worse the problem became, especially when the water was restored to full strength. Water was spraying all over the place once the pressure increased.
I had problems with connections. Connections were critical. We find our community, our families, our students and our educators facing challenges with connections. What repairs or proactive measures can we take to try to ensure the maximum effectiveness of our connections as we begin this school year? What can we do to minimize ill effects on loose connections as pressures and stressors increase?
As a parent, please consider connecting with your child’s school early and often, even before the school year commences. You can do this in a variety of ways. When you know your child’s teacher, counselor or administrator, send a quick introductory email (or it may be appropriate for your child to do this if he/she is a little older). What have they enjoyed about school? What have been past challenges? What are you hoping they get out of their experiences? Have they spoken of any possible future careers or hobbies that the teacher could use to help motivate them or to provide enrichment? This can be helpful at the beginning of any school year, particularly since time will be spent in a remote learning environment.
Secondly, sign up to get class and/or school announcements and to become a virtual observer in the courses. At Jenks, parents can sign up to be an observer through the learning management system, Canvas. This means any notifications that come from the school or a teacher can also come to you. Schedule time on a consistent basis to sit down with your child and look over their courses and announcements. Ask them what they are enjoying about their classes or what they are struggling with or a fact or concept they learned that was interesting during the week. Not only will that provide some insights about their experiences, but it will also help foster communication and conversation skills that are vital to future success in school and beyond. Again, the amount of student ownership in this process can be scaffolded as students matriculate to higher grades.
Likewise, as educators, we also need to make connections to the home and students. We need to find out about our students’ passions and aspirations, their favorite books and movies and any exciting new music they’ve discovered. The process of re-connecting students to schools will take intentional efforts with the length of time we’ve been out of formal face-to-face learning opportunities. I know staff members are excited to learn about their students each year and this one is no different.
There will be challenges and pressures from time to time. Loose connections can bring problems like my water debacle in the bathroom. Deliberate actions to secure those connections create greater efficiencies to be certain, but more importantly, create greater opportunities to maximize potential. Isn’t that what we want for our students, our schools and our community?