Eagle Eye on Education: Press pause, get your mind right, give thanks and be grateful

Michael Sawyers
Guest columnist

Let’s be honest: It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the challenges, mitigation strategies and lack of normalcy we all continue to face during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

For sure, COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our nation and the world. News about our economy, job loss, financial devastation, exhausted health-care workers, not enough supplies, friends and family members testing positive for the virus – sometimes it feels like more than any of us can bear, and we wonder: When will it go away?

Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.

Can we be thankful, even in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis?

I believe the answer is, resoundingly, “Yes."

Although the challenges are numerous, I am reminded daily by the innocent joy, laughter and inquisitive minds of our children working hard in their in-person or virtual classrooms that opportunities for thankfulness and gratefulness exist. As I watch our students climbing, swinging or shooting hoops during recess, wearing helmets and riding bikes, or actively participating in the arts, clubs or even sports, it affirms we have much to still be thankful and grateful for in 2020.

Daily, during Google Meet sessions, music classes on the grass, in lobbies or in outdoor pavilions, or within the learning spaces throughout our New Albany-Plain Local School District campus, I have the benefit of seeing “smiling eyes” of students and staff members. I observe our students and staff members who wear masks, strive to socially distance and wash their hands regularly at school or at home “Own Their R (Response)” to help keep everyone safe to keep our schools open and to allow learning to continue in an in-person (hybrid or all-in) or virtual model to meet the needs of our students and families alike. For this, we are thankful and grateful.  

During a recent conversation with students, I was reminded that even in the midst of what truly is a terrible moment in time during which we all have experienced loss of some type, it might be super helpful for the “adults” to consider all the things one can be grateful for even now, when it’s easier to blame, complain and defend every day about the coronavirus. Through the voices of our students, I was reminded of the importance of the mindset we choose.

While the season of thanks formally is upon us, we must challenge ourselves to be thankful and grateful, even during these unprecedented times.

On behalf of our school district, we are thankful and grateful for:

• More than 5,000 students who energize our school campus, both in-person and virtually, to continue to learn and grow.

• The work our faculty, staff and administrators perform daily to foster safe and positive student-centered learning environments committed to achieving the best academic and developmental outcomes.

• Our community of parents, guardians and caregivers.

• Our partnerships with our police and fire departments, the city, Plain Township, the New Albany Food Pantry and Neighborhood Bridges New Albany, who actively engage in and support the needs of our students and families.

• Our well-being advocates and their willingness to help students navigate personal, physical, social and learning challenges.

• A climate and learning environment in which students, teachers, staff members and parents respect differences and engage in age-appropriate dialogues to help students process what is happening to, with or around them.

• The financial resources provided by our community for the daily operations of our schools, including the funds necessary to repair and maintain our school campus.

• The generosity of our community to donate financial resources, food, materials and time to support families in need within our community.

• The patience, grace, understanding and humanity demonstrated toward our school district and our entire staff.

• The daily practice of the health-and-safety protocols, mitigation strategies and actions necessary to help keep students, staff, families and our community safe.

Our district is thankful and grateful. I am thankful and grateful. I encourage you to press pause from the daily grind of our fast-paced, technology-driven and instantaneous world, to get your mind right and deliberately voice what you and your family have to be thankful and grateful for today – especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the words of our students, our mindsets as adults matter. Please choose kindness, act with grace and be thankful and grateful.

Michael Sawyers is superintendent of the New Albany-Plain Local School District.