Message from Dr. Mary Ann Reilly
Dear Teachers and Staff,
The last week has been humbling. Tuesday and the days following found me, like all of central office, spending mornings at one of our schools and in my case delivering young, crying children to their classrooms. Without exception, those occasions ended with the teacher receiving the child with care, love, and a plan. I watched as teachers greeted children by name, and had ready a space in the room and a fun task to do. Within minutes, the once sobbing child was quiet and engaged in the work. This happened repeatedly.
I hope you make space in the increasingly hectic school day for the time to meet your students, to learn their names, and discover the idiosyncratic details of their lives that they offer up. When I taught, I would take the first couple of weeks to build routines with students, to read aloud, to wrap the school in the poems we made, to set up painting stations for art conversations, to write daily, celebrating when my students and I finally ran out of the typical trite topics and we were left to struggle and think. I often wrote them an initial letter telling them a few things about myself and asking them to tell me what kind of teacher they needed me to be. Their responses were often heartbreaking and revealing. Last week, I read a letter a middle school boy hand wrote his teacher here in Newark. He asked her to help him mend a relationship between himself and another student. The letter was witty, tender, and beautifully real.
Teaching is so complex. As Annie Dillard wrote some years ago about writing (but she could have been talking about teaching): “Process is nothing; erase your tracks. The path is not the work. I hope your tracks have grown over; I hope birds ate the crumbs; I hope you will toss it all and not look back.”
Put aside the curriculum guides for the next week. Be the creative, brilliant folks you are and design the work you most need to do in order to get to know your students, to establish a few routines, to make new pathways, to simply breathe fully. I’m so proud to be here learning with and from each of you.