Archive for September 7th, 2017



September 7, 2017

Opening day

My best teaching colleague always called the teacher first day of administration speeches the “Tally-ho” speech. Depending on the topic, it was more times than not, predictable. The first day for teachers in Charlottesville this year was 2 days after the events that took place. Needless to say this unpredictable event turned the day’s plan upside down and the superintendent asked herself: “How could we possibly help our teachers process these events, so that they in turn could help our students?

The superintendent, Rosa Atkins, had worked with her leadership team during the summer on a plan to roll out the district’s strategic plan. She knew that they had to completely re-think the plan to acknowledge and and address the immediate needs.

“We needed to take time to acknowledge the trauma that we and our students had experienced. In addition to grieving, could we possibly hope for a little healing and inspiration to guide us into the new year?”

When I read this in the article that Rosa wrote and was published in Education Week Teacher, August 23, called Charlottesville Schools Superintendent: ‘We Will Need to Lean on One Another’In Charlotteville, led by Superintendent Atkins, included a clear message reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. words: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” It was the teachers and schools that “shine the illuminating light of learning, the warm light of relationships, the beautiful light of creativity and the arts, the clarifying light of truth and fact, and the reflective light of introspection.” Every member of the staff member, 800 of them, was given a glow stick and formed three hearts out of the glow sticks and sang “Lean on Me”. The three hearts represented the three who lost their lives due to the rally.

One music teacher wrote on Facebook, “Today our whole city schools’ faculty came together to kick off the year. And do you know what we did? We sang. We need each other’s voices. All of them. This is why I do what I do.”

Of course, I thought about the power of the arts and how they often bring people together. And, I found myself wondering which school districts in Maine were addressing this topic head on? I wondered how many of the first teacher days agendas included or acknowledged the topic? I wondered how many ‘welcome back to school letters’ sent from superintendents and principals acknowledged the issue? I wondered how many educators see our role and responsibility?

I learned about the letter that the superintendent in Portland Public Schools sent to the staff and the resources that were put together to help guide the role and responsibility we all have as educators. No, it wasn’t the predictable letter or message but it was the right one. I applaud superintendent Xavier Botana and the Portland school district for taking a stand and providing support for the district staff. Perhaps Superintendent Botana’s background influences his lens. He came to the United States as a Cuban refugee who didn’t speak English. His experiences are similar to those of many children in the district. Inspired by his work in Portland’s changing community, he says, “Education can transform lives in this land of opportunity.”

Tomorrow I will post the resources that will be useful to educational staffs – in and out of schools – across the state and beyond. If you have resources please share them with me at so I can pass them on to others. We can all use a little guidance on the topic.


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