The Great Return
It’s time. Back to school. The stores are filling the aisles with supplies. Parents are scheduling last minute adventures. And citizens are lining up to make their public comments at school board meetings. Wait, that’s not part of the typical end of summer routine. Families are supposed to be out squeezing every last minute of summer. But, this is no typical return to school. Once again, people who have spent YEARS of their lives being trained in how to educate our youth are again being charged with making decisions around the pandemic. Instead of discussing welcome back ideas, parents are lining up to berate the board, administration and staff about masking in the schools. Our district held our meeting a couple weeks ago stating our masking plan for the fall and it wasn’t 48 hours later that the CDC changed the guidance. I suspect that it will change multiple times before the first day of school. (Thanks for the moving target!) As an administrator in a public school, I’d like to take a minute to direct your attention to other things that would better serve the children. After all, it IS about the children.
First and foremost, the children are listening. Please remember that. Regardless of your view on masking and the pandemic, your children will not be well served to hear you say how wrong it is to mask and how stupid the school is and then get to school only to be asked to put the mask on. There is value in following the rules. This is a life lesson. I don’t like to have my bag searched before entering an NBA game or a concert but it is a rule and I will abide by it. If you instill in your child that masks are not acceptable, you are creating an extremely uncomfortable situation for them. Instead, discuss how, in some places, masks are the rule and when it is, they need to listen to the adult in charge and comply. Taking away the unnecessary worry and discomfort of being conflicted between their parents and teacher will allow your child to more meaningfully participate in their school day and LEARN (Remember, that’s why they are there.).
Next, practice. My building is made up of 500 students in preschool and kindergarten. When bringing students back mid year last year, I was mainly concerned with their ability to actually wear the mask. Friends that worked in other districts told me it was a non issue but I doubted them. Much to my surprise and relief, they were right! I was amazed at how few children struggled with this. From our most compliant to our most disabled, they were awesome. So now my concern is that we will be bringing everyone back. Most of the children have not been wearing masks over the summer. We may have to help them adjust and we are happy to do that. Starting the discussions and practicing with your child will help them adjust more smoothly and more meaningfully participate in their school day and LEARN. (Are you seeing the pattern?)
My final point is about modeling patience and understanding. Often times, people seem to forget that teachers are people too. (Remember freaking out when you were a kid and you saw your teacher in the grocery store? What was she doing out of the school building?) Just like parents, teachers are worried about keeping kids safe. Now I know you will find this hard to believe but, parents can be difficult. I have actually had to have a parent banned from school property due to her threatening behavior and that was before the pandemic! So now add all the anxiety, politically charged views, frustration, etc... Not to mention that some of the children have not been away from their parents for a year! See where I am going? We have a storm of emotions and I have not even touched on the learning that is to be going on. Please remember that the vast majority of the adults in the school are there because they love children. Take comfort in the fact that they will be doing their best to educate your child while keeping them safe. In addition, the teacher is only following the rules. Heck, the administration is only follow the rules. Let’s be clear, I HATE all of this. I don’t want to have to remind kids to wear their mask, make cleaning schedules and readjust everything the school does in a day so we can social distance. It is exhausting. But we do it FOR THE KIDS. So, when you are frustrated with the protocols and rules, please don’t yell at the teacher or even the principal. We are just following the rules put before us. Work with them and dare I say… ask how they are doing once in a while.
Relationships are at the root of everything we do. I’m not saying you should not speak up. Come with your concerns AND solutions. Don’t attack, work with us. When you are at your wits end, hold the rant for after they are in bed and out of earshot. Remember, in the end it is ABOUT THE KIDS.