Written by One Trusted Adult Founder, Brooklyn Raney.
In ten days, I visited ten schools to help kick off the 2023–24 school year. I visited public, independent, Catholic, and boarding schools in Illinois, Ohio, Maine, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, and spoke with teachers of grade levels from Pre-K through 12. This travel gifted me the opportunity to meet with hundreds of educators with a vast and varied range of expertise, ideas, and experiences. What did not vary from state to state, or school to school, was the intentionality and eagerness with which every educator approached the year ahead. There is no energy that matches new-school-year energy—possibility and potential percolate through every conversation, infuse newly decorated bulletin boards, and shine in the eyes of educators.
Over these ten days, I started each conversation, keynote, and training the same way: by asking, “What is one hope you have for the young people in your life?” I spoke with nearly one thousand educators, and here are the three themes that emerged:
1. They hope for a sense of calm.
Educators are hopeful that their students will experience a peaceful and calm school year. Following years of disruption and uncertainty, educators are prioritizing routines and structures, both in their classrooms and school-wide, that encourage feelings of safety and predictability in young people—such safety is a universal youth need that students require in order to be available for learning. What I heard from educators repeatedly was a desire to create spaces where youth can play, dream, develop, and just be. When young people are surrounded by adults—at home and at school—who are committed to creating a sense of calm, they can go further academically than they ever imagined.
2. They hope for a sense of connection.
Technology was a hot topic of conversation, and most educators I spoke with feel that it’s time to pull back on the amount of tech we use in the classroom. One educator said, “I was given an app to have my students check IN but, quite frankly, it causes them to check OUT!” When students are working on a personal device, the temptation to veer from the assignment is just too great, even with a teacher looking over their shoulder. Educators are hopeful for more opportunities and guardrails that encourage youth to connect with them and one another “in real life.” They look to administrators to be purposeful about technology policies, and to ask themselves (and their teachers), “Is this app/platform/program enhancing or disrupting our connection with students?” Learning is social and curiosity is contagious, and educators want to grow both through the power of in-person, fully present conversations and engagement.
3. They hope for a sense of community
Educators are hopeful that their students will make friends, feel a sense of belonging and school pride, and experience teams of trusted adults supporting their development at every stage. Educators are optimistic that their schools can establish a strong sense of community and maintain it all year long. To achieve this sense of community, they believe that relationships and responsibilities need to be recalibrated. With clear and kind communication and in a spirit of partnership, schools and parents/guardians must come together to define how parents/guardians can support their child’s education and how teachers can support their students’ development—and they must wisely set and communicate the boundaries of that support.
The universality of these hopes was remarkable as the same comments were repeated in schools throughout all five states and in conversations with educators spanning all grade levels. Our organization, @OneTrustedAdult, will be doing everything we can to support educators in having the time, space, tools, and trust to keep these hopes a top priority all year long, and we encourage parents and guardians to do the same. Support and care for the educators you know as they show up day after day for young people. And educators - share with parents/guardians your specific hopes for their children. As teams of adults who care about the positive development of youth, we can choose to center the problems or the possible. My hope this school year is that all adults in the lives of students can keep their sights on the hopes and the possible, and that everyone experiences a sense of calm, connection, and community everyday.