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Blog: Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

A September to Remember

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

I happened to be in a grocery store recently, and a high school student recognized me and bundled up his courage to ask me about secondary school for the coming year. After I responded to his queries, I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions of my own. Of course, my primary curiosity related to how he felt about coming back to school. Though he was wearing a mask, it was great to see his eyes light up when he talked about going back to school. He told me that he was excited to see his friends again and was looking forward to his grade eleven year in school. He acknowledged that his parents were a little worried for him and his younger siblings, but thought it would be a good year.
I cannot help but think that these feelings are being played out by thousands of households across our community, as we all walk into what will be the most memorable school start-up in our lifetimes. Whether you are entering kindergarten, middle school, your graduating year, or like me, entering your thirty-third school start-up, we can unequivocally say that this will be the most unique September in our lives. The world around has been rocked by the pandemic, and as society begins to learn how to live with COVID-19 in our midst, our schools are called upon to help to move our society forward, albeit slowly and cautiously.
September is a time when educators capitalize on the work (and rest) they have had over the summer to prepare expectant children for a new year. We spend time building plans for the first few days of school because we know they set the tone for the rest of the year. The way we organize the school, our classrooms, and our very routines are part of that essential ritual which has helped to shape the very fabric of society. This year, our staff have spent a significant amount of time preparing for a new kind of school year. Safety and precaution pervade everything we have done thus far, but we know that learning will only occur when we feel safe and included. Ultimately, the plans we have put in place this summer will help set the stage for the rest of the year.
September is also a time for us to cast our minds to how the year will contribute to our best hopes for our education system. What is our society calling upon us to be for the 2020-21 school year, and how will this contribute to our most compelling image of education? We have talked for years about how we can improve our education system to make it more competency-based, student-focused, humane and equitable, and it strikes me that the pandemic will drive us to really focus on what matters most. This September we must commit ourselves to ensuring that teaching and learning are guided by a focus on student wellness, personal well-being, and the most essential things students need to thrive in the months and years ahead.
I have always looked at the days leading up to September as the “storm before the calm.” Our sometimes frantic but careful preparations set the stage for the learning that occurs for the rest of the year. The truth is, at least for me, once the students arrive all the concerns tend to fall away, and the difference we want to make in their lives move front and centre. We go into a sort of autopilot, fueled by a mission we have to truly make a difference in the lives of our students. Now more than ever, families will be looking to us to bring that sense of calm and hope into their lives. September 2020 will be a defining moment for our district, and I know we will rise to the occasion.

By Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden
Dr. Kevin Godden

By Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools

Kevin has been the Superintendent of Schools for the Abbotsford School District since July 2011, overseeing some 19,000 students and 2,500 employees. Kevin is committed to student success in all forms and envisions a school district that can nimbly respond to the ever changing needs and interests of its students.