Love Them First

Love Them First
Posted on 03/30/2021
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Love Them First

This week marks an incredibly important week - the beginning of Quarter 4. The final quarter of the year - the grand finale. It was just one short year ago that we were robbed of this finale. We had to end our school year from afar. At a time when we have classroom parties, grade level celebrations, field trips, social events, and graduations, we were at home figuring out how to navigate through distance learning, quarantines, and closed businesses. I told my staff during our professional development last Monday that as tired as we all are, I wouldn’t trade it for the world to go back to this time last year. We are so fortunate to have the opportunity to spend the next - or rather final - nine weeks of the year in person with our students. We get to say goodbye this time. And this is not something we should ever again take for granted. 

This is why on our last professional development day prior to the end of the year, we spent the morning screening a documentary that showed us exactly why it is ok, rather - necessary actually, for us to focus on continuing to build relationships with our students. About a year and a half ago, I had the opportunity to screen a documentary titled “Love Them First - Lessons From Lucy Laney Elementary,” which is an elementary school located in North Minneapolis. To say this documentary had a profound impact on me would be an understatement. I have never forgotten the feeling of inspiration, motivation, and sadness I felt while viewing this documentary. The reason being that this documentary could have been filmed in any public educational setting and still be accurate. In the short 90 minute documentary, I felt a sense of connection with the students, staff, and principal highlighted as I live this every day. The stories might be a little different, but the lessons are the same - we have kids all around us who have their own unique story, their own unique stress, and this year, their own unique experiences from a global pandemic that shut down months of their lives. And what is the best, research-based method to overcome the trauma, stress, and negative effects from the pandemic? Cultivate relationships. Because relationships build resiliency, and that is what we must do. 

The leadership team at BEA intentionally set out to have staff view this screening the day before the final quarter. The message needed to be clear….our kids still need us, they still need our efforts to build connections, and we need to remember that while everyone is exhausted, our kids are still counting on us. We have nine whole weeks to make memories, celebrate that we are in person to finish our last quarter of the year, and get a closure to the year that we were unable to do this time last year. It is easy to forget this when you are trying to address learning loss, learning models, quarantines, masking, standards, and testing. This is why we deemed it necessary to view this documentary, knowing it was emotionally “heavy.”  And, one of the brightest spots of the morning was a surprise visit - albeit virtual visit - from no other than Principal Mauri Friestleben, the Principal from the documentary. Her words of encouragement and reminders to always “Love them first” was the perfect way to end our professional development time and head into our final quarter of the year. I have no doubt the staff at BEA will remember her words over and over again during our last nine weeks this year. After a year of shut downs, distance learning, hybrid learning, and quarantines, we are ready to leave this year behind, but not before we remind our students - and ourselves - exactly how much they mean to us. 

***For anyone interested in viewing this documentary, you can view it free of charge by simply going to YouTube and typing in the search bar “Love Them First” or click here

Photo from Professional Development session on Monday, March 29, 2021. Principal Mauri Friestleben joins the BEA staff remotely to discuss the documentary "Love Them First- Lessons from Lucy Laney Elementary."
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