I am so happy to have this opportunity to address you all today, and I thank you for taking time from your busy lives to read this.
As one of our union sisters told me in an e-mail recently, “These are strange times, indeed.” Not since the Great Depression have we seen economic and social upheaval of this magnitude. Still, through all of this, I have seen some terrific things.
First and foremost, I have seen North Dakota’s teachers rise to the occasion in their typically selfless way and fix their focus on what is best for their students.
On Sunday, March 15, Governor Burgum announced that all ND schools would close for the following week. In addition, he issued a directive to school districts to plan for a safe reopening of our schools and to prepare for extended school closure. From that moment to this, teachers, education support professionals and administrators have come together to create the new normal for our students.
These teams have created plans to feed children facing food insecurities, continue important educational strategies virtually and through distance learning, and have sanitized our schools and buses like never before.
It has not always been easy. Early on there were issues with clear, consistent communication. There was misunderstanding about exactly what the governor was asking of each district. In some districts, leaders simply did nothing to prepare for the future, causing great angst among teachers because of their concern for their students.
Still, through our own communications with fellow NDU members, we have learned that communication is improving, and confidence is growing. The entire state has been heartened to see teachers organizing parades through children’s neighborhoods, reassuring their students that teachers love them, miss them and are ready to serve them. The public has also seen the messages that teachers are sending their students in their lunch bags, reassuring them that everything will be alright soon and encouraging them to be ready to learn.
It is clear that during this time, we need to over-communicate with administrators. Let them know your challenges as well as your successes. Over-communicate with parents, too. This is all new to them too, and they trust you to educate not only their children but themselves, too, on how to reinforce lessons and how to keep their kids engaged. And you already know to over-communicate with your students. They trust you and the relationship you’ve built together.
They need to know that just because you are not in the same room, you are in the same place, and they can still enjoy the relationships you have built.
As I have said before, we have a long way to go on our road to normalcy. And there will be more than few potholes and detours along the way. Still, I am sure that with ND’s educators and public employees behind the wheel, we will arrive at our destination safe, sound, and inspired.
YOU are the very best, and YOU are NDU. Thank you for your membership in ND United, and thank you for all you do for our state.
ND United President