On March 6, 2020, there were a lot of excited students in Bandera ISD. It was the Friday before spring break, and everyone--students and staff, alike--was ready for a break. Little did we know that March 6th would mark the last day that any of our Class of 2020 seniors would have an opportunity to attend school, go to prom, compete in a track meet, or sit in a crowd on the bleachers for a spring pep rally.
When I look back on the past 11 months, I am filled with disbelief that COVID-19 has dragged on as long as it has, but I’m equally filled with awe and gratitude for the ways in which our students, staff, and community have responded. I’m filled with pride as I consider what it means to be a Bandera Bulldog--especially in of circumstances.
Of any professional title I have ever held, I am most proud to be called teacher. It’s a title of respect, a title of honor, and a title that has only increased in its significance over the past year. In his column in Christianity.com, Ray Pritchard writes, “Of the 90 times Jesus was addressed in the gospels, 60 times he was called Teacher.” Those who carry such a title undoubtedly have a tremendous amount of responsibility on their shoulders. But they’re also in good company.
Anyone who knows me understands that I am not a fan of griping and complaining about today’s students. In fact, I believe that most people conveniently forget about some of their own bad habits when they lament, “These kids today... When I was young...” That stated, I would contend that, over the years, there has been an erosion in the respect afforded teachers by many. Mainly, I believe the difference is that many used to extend teachers the assumption that they were right. Today, many families contend that teachers are right--as long as they have proof of the same.
As the days of COVID quarantines have added up, I have heard from many how much their respect for all that teachers do has gone through the roof. Knowing what I know about teachers today (and what I’ve known for a long time), this may be one of the best things to come out of this never-ending challenge. Make no mistake, the teachers, the instructional aides, the front office staff, the bus drivers, the food service workers, the support staff and the leaders who lead them have never deserved our respect more. They have changed their instructional practice on a moment’s notice--only to have to change it back, and reverse course again. They have counseled and loved our young people--on Zoom meetings and in person. They have created lessons for multiple subjects, and then created those same lessons to meet the needs of students learning remotely from home. They have tracked attendance in all the usual ways--and in the countless ways that the state has conjured over the past many months. They have fought through the uncertainties and the fears that they might get sick or, worse yet, place a loved one in harm’s way. They have taught from their classrooms and from their homes. They’ve analyzed student data with two team members on campus and one team member joining via technology. They’ve done more than ever before, but, more than anything, they have continued to keep student learning at the forefront of it all.
Last week, I encountered one of our bright and talented 5th grade students and, as I usually do, asked her about school. Pulling an end-of-the-clay conversation starter that I’ve used on my own three boys over the years, I said, “Tell me something good about your day.” I was pleased to see her really thinking about her answer when her face came to life with the biggest smile, “My latest assessment shows that I’ve grown--a lot!” I couldn’t help but grin just as big as she did. I learned that her teacher had sat with each child--not to just share a meaningless score--but to help each child understand his/her areas of strength and challenge. For this young learner, her teacher not only helped her to grow, she helped her understand how she had grown--and she did this for all her students--in the face of unbelievable difficulty and challenge.
This fantastic anecdote about Bandera ISD teachers is, I am happy to say, not out of the ordinary. Every day, similar stories play out all over this district. Yes, you can say that our folks have taken seriously our vision to be a small-town district creating a world-wide impact. When you see one of them, I hope you’ll tell the teacher how much you appreciate him or her. And in the very near future, I hope you’ll be able to give them a big thank-you hug.
Dr Jerry Hollingsworth is the Superintendent of Bandera Independent School District. You may reach him by email at jhollingsworth@banderaisdnet.