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Partnerships and Building Relationships / Storytellers

An empty basketball court…

young man on basketball court

Prior to this spring, I had all of these ideas rolling around in my head about this next blog post.

Would it be about standardized testing (a normal spring occurrence) or preparing your English Learner (EL) for summer? Would it be a post about connecting EL families to school and making them feel welcome?

Then, around mid-March, we all began talking about something else…

Did you see that they closed Italy? Did you see that there are COVID-19 cases in Washington State? Did you see they held that cruise ship off the coast and wouldn’t let it come into port?

close-up of a globe

Now, in reflection, it feels like it all turned in a heartbeat. Gone were my thoughts about testing and placements. Instead, they were replaced with thoughts about our new remote learning. Remote learning on HYPERDRIVE.

It was a few weeks into the pandemic when we noticed it.

See, neighbors and friends of ours were always outside playing basketball. I mean ALWAYS.

Their youngest son and my oldest son are friends. They are a frequent topic of conversation in our family.

“Did you see they were outside playing and it’s 45 degrees out? Did you see they were outside in the rain? Did you wave to them when we drove by?”

The friend and his other siblings were always outside having fun and shooting basketballs come rain, shine, snow, or night. Truly, there were few times we would pass their driveway that they were not outside shooting baskets. As sure as the mail would run and the sun would rise, they would be playing in their driveway.

A few weeks into the pandemic, I noticed they weren’t outside. It was still early April, with some cold weather, so I didn’t think much of it. Then, April blossomed into May. As we took regular walks in our neighborhood, we would chat (from a socially distanced gap) with other school friends and neighbors, but our other friends were never outside.

basketball hoop

Then, I began to think about some of the accounts I had been reading online and hearing from friends in larger cities—accounts of Americans being targeted because of their ethnicity. The more I read, the louder the “bell clanged” in my own head. Did this sweet family now feel that they could not come outside of their own home? Did they worry about their children playing basketball in their own driveway? Were they worried about acts of aggression against their family and their children because of their ethnicity?

As of this writing, it’s been 119 days since our governor closed all schools and we jumped on this COVID-19 roller coaster. It’s been 119 days since I’ve seen our friends playing basketball outside. Do they feel safe?

For all of you who may read this—do your ELs feel safe? My guess is that many of them do not. Just as we have watched many rise and stand up, saying they do not feel safe in their own communities, I ask each of us to examine what are we doing to bridge the gap? What am I doing to help others feel safe on our street, in our neighborhood, at school, at the recreation center, in the store, at the shopping mall, or in the park? What is my role as an educator, but more importantly, as a citizen who cares about others?

If you haven’t heard from your ELs, now is a great time to mail them a postcard or reach out with a phone call.

As educators, it is important that we provide that safe space for our students and their families. When we return to school (either in-person or remotely), we MUST give them time to share and process what has been happening in our world. Not only have we had COVID-19, but we have had a light shone directly on racial injustices in our country. Now, we must shine as examples and beacons of hope. We must continue to offer and create a safe place for our students to express their worries, their fears, and their dreams.

With deepest sincerity,

For breakfast this morning, I had egg bites and coffee (LOTS of coffee).

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