April 5, 2021

Let’s Talk ESP Blog: Spring Renewal

Let’s Talk ESP Blog: Spring Renewal Featured Image
Gail Kablau

By Gail Kablau

Spring is here! Buds are coming out, birds are singing and building nests, grass is starting to get green – it’s a time of renewal. I don’t think I’ve been more ready for the spring renewal than this year. But it still doesn’t quite feel quite right, as we find ourselves between a bit of a rock and a hard place – COVID numbers are rising again even as vaccines are rolling out, and there is still so much uncertainty about how long the pandemic will control our daily lives.

If you look up the definition of “renewal” in the dictionary, it is defined as “an instance of resuming an activity or state after an interruption”, which for some school Districts is appropriate as students return to school buildings face-to-face this spring. But renewal is also defined as “the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken”. I would argue that this is the definition where our attention needs to be focused.

As much as I long for COVID to be in the rear view mirror, I worry about what the final takeaways will be once this school year is done and we look ahead to next year. Will there be more of the same? Or will we truly experience a renewal in public education? If we have learned anything from this experience, it is that we need to ask some hard questions about how we are meeting the needs of all students and the educators who work with them. What did we learn about the critical role each of us plays in the education of each child? And more importantly, how will we change to adjust for what we have learned?

I worry that we will want so badly to get back to “normal”, instead of making the necessary sweeping changes to address the real problems (inequity being the largest), we will just put a bandaid on it and begin next year right back where we started pre-pandemic. Now that the inequities have been brought to light, we can’t go back to what we were doing. We can do better.

In March there were a lot of “Year in Review” reports – I watched the newscasts and read the articles, and listened as people looked back and spoke about what they learned this past year. They were talking about it like it was over now that vaccines are rolling out. The pandemic is not yet behind us.

With more and more school districts bringing students back into their buildings face-to-face, businesses & restaurants opening, and people getting out in the warmer weather, COVID numbers are starting to rise again. And for the people who are still out of work, the large majority of whom are women of color, it’s definitely not behind us. We have a long way to go before children are able to get vaccines, jobs come back, and COVID variants slow down. Too many states or communities are rolling back COVID mitigation mandates too soon, coupled with spring breakers not following proper protocols, infection rates will continue to rise in our communities and in our schools.

As Union members, we need to be the ones to keep asking the hard questions of our building and District administration. We need to keep bringing forward the inequities that exist, and the solutions we know can fix them. We need to be at the heart of the renewal process, so when COVID is in the rear view mirror, we are able to make progress in moving public education forward.

Education support professionals can be instrumental in making that happen. We see the students in ways others cannot. We are a part of the communities they live in. We know what needs to be done. I encourage you all to raise your voices and fight for real renewal, not just putting a band-aid on an old system. Join with your teachers, if you can – there is real power in numbers. We’re all fighting for the same things, after all – what’s best for kids, and for the educators who work with them.

We need to continue to connect with each other, so I can support all of your voices at WEAC Board meetings, and there are a couple of opportunities coming up for us to do that.

Saturday, April 17, is the ESP Recharge Drive-In conference. It’s free to all WEAC ESP members, a virtual conference from 8:00AM until Noon. Here is a link to register.

The WEAC Representative Assembly (RA) is April 23-24. If you have been selected as a delegate from your Local, we invite you to attend a pre-RA ESP caucus event on Wednesday, April 21, 7:30-8:30PM via Zoom. This is a great opportunity to connect with fellow ESP delegates from across the state. You must be a registered RA Delegate to attend. Here is the link to register.

I hope to see you at one or both of these events, but if you are unable to attend either event, please don’t hesitate to contact me at any time. Let’s Talk!

Gail Kablau is the WEAC Education Support Professional (ESP)-at-Large Board RepresentativeContact her at: gdkablau@gmail.com.