‘Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.’ –Stephen Hawking


Back to school this fall is, well, complex. There have been years when I’ve pulled up some of my previous “back to school” letters and made a few tweaks. That’s not possible this year. We are in a state of adaptation.

As I look around, traditional back-to-school routines are stalled as school calendars and schedules continue to evolve based on our deepening understanding of the role schools are playing in the community spread of COVID-19.  

As we come to grips with the full responsibility schools play in keeping students, teachers, staff, and our communities safe, educators continue to make adjustments to ensure they deliver a high-quality educational experience for ALL their students. The educators I engaged with this summer have spent their time leveraging the lessons they learned this past spring to figure out how best to support their students and families in this changing world.  Surveys and conversations with teachers and school and district leaders affiliated with Green Schools National Network reflect some hopeful trends:   

  • ALL students will have a personal device and ALL neighborhoods and homes will have access to broadband.
  • All students will have synchronous and asynchronous learning experiences that incorporate projects, service, and community building.  
  • All teachers will get the support they need to use the online learning tools available to them so they can provide the best possible learning experiences for their students.
  • All schools and school districts are working to put systems in place that honor and support the diversity and complexity of how families are able to support students. Learning centers are being created with supervision and modified instructional supports for students while parents work; virtual technology lessons and coaching systems are in place for parents; and emergent community and school partnerships are providing social supports for students’ and teachers’ families.

We are learning from COVID-19 how to adapt to the circumstances presented by this new challenge. After all, educators are intelligent. We are life-long learners.

So, as the traditional notion of the first day of school unravels and you muster the strength to step forward in this new configuration, remember: under that shroud of uncertainty and fear, your students still feel the hope of a new school year and the anticipation of something new.

Before you crack open your computer on the first day of school, take a deep breath and feel the crispness of the autumn air. That crispness is still there. It will remind you that what’s most important is not what you teach, but how your students learn to experience the world. Breathe deeply and remember that we are all in this together. Our role is not to teach content but to create resilient learners who will be able to adapt to change.