This is a guest post by Victoria Trujillo Onodera.
Victoria Trujillo Onodera is a Culturally Responsive Education Coach, educator, and teacher leader with over 25 years of classroom and instructional coaching experience.
When the Welcome Back to School letter pops up on my email, I am not surprised. As an educator and as a parent, I know the routine. Yet, nothing about this year feels routine. As a Latina educator and a Latina parent, I find myself silently hoping to read something different than the traditional Welcome Back letter. Humble brags about recent achievements and generic statements about excellence for all, ring particularly hollow to me this year.
I take a deep breath, click on the email and read the letter. Disappointed, I decide to write the Welcome Back to School letter I wish I had received:
Dear School Community:
Welcome to the 2019-2020 school year. We are excited to welcome students and support them as they begin, continue, or near the end of their educational journeys with us.
We remain steadfast in our continued commitment to academic excellence, innovative practices, school safety and inclusive excellence. We are proud of our achievements and grateful for our school community.
The beginning of the year can be an exciting, celebratory time, but we must acknowledge that the current culture and climate in our nation also makes the beginning of the school year a time filled with concern and fear for many. We recognize that for many of our students, the first day of school also comes with a fear of being unsafe, both physically and emotionally. We also recognize that many of our students and families fear that their language, their skin color, their race, and their mere presence might make them a target and their families a target. To recognize this is to recognize the humanity of us all. We know that racism and race motivated violence directly impacts the communities we serve. We are well within the scope of our responsibilities as educators to address these issues.
We are committed to partnering with all members of our school communities ensuring safe, healthy spaces that affirm the identity of each and every student, leveraging the assets they bring. We do this in service of safe, healthy, affirming spaces for all students to learn—safe, healthy, affirming spaces for all staff to work and safe, healthy, affirming spaces for all community members to visit.
To our all our student communities and families, we welcome you.
Courageous School Leader
As a parent, an educator and a community member, the Welcome Back to School letter I wish to read reflects the values of the leader writing it and the values of the institution that they lead. At a time when racism and race motivated violence are at the forefront of our minds, it’s the only letter that sincerely welcomes and truly honors the communities we serve.