Goodbyes are hard.

August 9, 2016

 

I suppose it’s obvious, but I never noticed this before.  A lot of goodbyes happen in an airport.  This past week I stumbled upon one such goodbye as I approached an airport security checkpoint.  Although I was in a rush and mentally walking through an upcoming conference presentation, the goodbye immediately captivated me.   

 

A woman was talking with a young man who was perhaps 20 years old.  I couldn't be sure, but it seemed as if the young man was not related to the woman.  However, it was very clear that she cared deeply about him as she shared these words, "If you come back to Minnesota for school you always have a home."

 

You always have a home.

 

Such a powerful statement.  So much so, that even as I type the words I get a little choked up.  As I let the woman’s genuine invitation sink in, I allowed my thoughts to shift partially back to the presentation I was preparing for.  I started to ponder whether we have given the same authentic invitation to meaningful change in education.

 

Some questions I started to process included: Does relevance always have a home in our classrooms and schools?  And if so, would our students agree?  What role has their voice and future played in the decisions we are making on an hour by hour, class by class basis?  How might we ensure that meaningful change is a constant companion on our educational journey?

 

I tend to believe that how students and staff are learning is just as important as what they are learning. The tools we choose to use or not use are also an important part of the conversation.  I'm a little bit worried that we've resigned to living apart from relevance in some respects.   

 

Said another way, I wonder if we are changing at a rate that is slower than what our students need us to? Or worse yet, are we changing the wrong things for the wrong reasons?   

 

As I reflected on some of these questions, I couldn't escape the grip of the woman's strong sentiment to the young man she was saying goodbye to.  Maybe it was because there were times in my life when I longed to feel those words.  Occasions when I did not feel at home.

 

I remember a time in college when my girlfriend (now my amazing wife) dropped me off in my new dorm room.  She helped me unpack a few things, but eventually had to say goodbye. We were attending college in different cities which meant the time we had together was very special and took extra intentionality.  After she left my dorm room I remember slinking onto the bare floor and being reduced to a puddle of tears.  I felt so alone.  I managed to unpack my stereo and played some music that we both enjoyed (Dave Matthews "Satellite”).  That seemed to help a little bit, but it was still extremely difficult to be away from home.

 

Circling back to the airport, I'm not sure if the young man who received the genuine offer understood or felt the magnitude of what the woman had expressed.  We all experience goodbyes differently.  And goodbyes are hard.

 

With that said, there are probably some practices that we may need to part ways with to ensure relevance always has a home in our schools.  Meaningful change will require intentionality.  I suppose in the end our students will be the only ones who will be able to answer whether we understood the gravity of their needs and changing world. 

 

Old habits die hard...and they are cut from the same cloth as a difficult goodbye.

 

Image Credit: Adapted from Pixabay.com

 

 

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Dr. Brad Gustafson is an elementary principal, author, and speaker. He believes schools can be spaces where creativity and innovation thrive, but only when we prioritize relationships and a relevant, connected pedagogy. 

 

Connect on email at:

AdjustingCourse@gmail.com

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