Dr. Dan Bittman
Elk River Area School District
MASA President 2021-22

When I was a kid, my parents would tell me how lucky I was and how hard they had to work compared to kids these days. They would tell me how they had to walk to school, uphill even in a snowstorm (often both ways), and how they had to do everything the hard and long way. What will our children tell their kids about this last year? It certainly was one for the record books and one we will likely never forget!

Despite some of the challenges we experienced, however, we flourished in many ways, as well. We learned countless lessons along the way as we navigated the pandemic, many of which will help us better serve our students, families and communities in the future. Here are some of the lessons learned that come to mind: (in no particular order):

  • International pandemics can happen and we can get through them successfully
  • National and state politics can be divisive and can have a significant impact on what is happening in schools across the state and in our communities
  • Students want to be heard, at the table, and provided a safe space to talk about current events and things happening in our schools
  • What works for one student or family, may not necessarily work for another (i.e. different instructional models, use of technology, masking, etc.)
  • Schools and communities must do more to support the mental health of their children, families and staff
  • Access to resources for all learners is essential if we are committed to preparing our youth for the future
  • In times of a pandemic, consistent childcare, food, mental health support etc… are critical and as important, if not more, than the content being taught
  • More work needs to be done to ensure all students feel welcome in our schools and communities
  • Social media is often a distractor and a forum for spreading misinformation and hate, causing much hurt to our students, families, staff, and community members
  • Community partnerships have a positive impact on the lives of our students, staff and families. Relationships matter!

Let’s use these lessons to refine our practices, and stay focused on our vision, mission, and strategic plans.  There will certainly be distractions such as (but not limited to) whether to mask, vaccinations, critical race theory, what curriculum is being taught, social media, etc., but our students, families, staff and communities need us now more than ever.  We are prepared and ready to lead!  Let’s not let the 2021-2022 school year be dictated by distractors, and instead, be seen as the year we demonstrated compassion, care and kindness.  This is our opportunity to show how we have rebounded, learned, and cared for each other.

On behalf of MASA, thank you for your service and commitment to doing great things for others. Your leadership and work make a difference each and every day, and the impact you have on others, especially on those that need us most, will ensure a bright future.

While the 2021-2022 school year will likely (and hopefully) be somewhat less eventful, we know there will be plenty of opportunities to lead.  Lead with compassion, care and kindness, and make it a wonderful year ahead!

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