Our children have many teachers – in school and in life. The role of any teacher, defined either by profession or practice, is always critical to the success of our children. But is profoundly more so during times of great uncertainty — much like the challenging times we live in now.

Teaching is often associated with instruction, but observation and modeling are equally important.  We may say, “do as I say not as I do” but in the long run they are more likely to remember and follow our actions than our words.

The lessons we teach now, about safety, dignity, equality, and resilience are ones they will remember for the rest of their lives.

What will they notice about how we treat each other – especially those we disagree with? What will they learn about how to respond to crisis – with calmness and compassion or with anxiety and anger? How will they come to learn about who we are responsible for – just for ourselves and our families or for our community and country?  What will they observe about the difference between being selfish and selfless?  About looking out for yourself or for others? About coming together and working as a community and as a team.

In the Creative Team Dynamics course I teach at the Parsons School of Design, I asked students to take a break from their screens, go for a walk and notice all the invisible teams working together towards a common goal in their neighborhood.  During our discussion the following week, some noticed construction workers, restaurant employees, and people playing soccer or taking a yoga class. Others mentioned families going on drives and even people walking their dogs.  But it was one student’s response that gave me pause.  “Are people wearing masks on a team?”   Her classmates all agreed that they were. Sadly they observed that must mean that people not wearing a mask are on a different team.

As my own children go “back to school,”  I’m learning a little bit about what they’re current online experience is like through my own observations. (They will be remote for the next week and then transition to a hybrid model) 

I can’t help but notice how they are mirroring the attitude of their teachers – who despite monumental challenges and great personal sacrifice, are so enthusiastic, positive and caring. 

It’s too early to tell what content they’re learning, but it’s obvious just through observation that they are definitely learning something – how to roll with a new reality, make the best of difficult situations and work as a team.

Thanks to all the teachers out there. In classrooms, in homes and in our communities.  We see what you’re doing and more importantly, so do our children.

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