Back to school… in February! After almost a year of shifting from Distance Learning to Hybrid and back to Distance Learning, our kids are back to school in-person full-time. I can’t imagine all the emotions kids, families, teachers and staff are going through. I can tell you that for me, there is excitement, apprehension, fear and relief running through all at once. Every family has had to make the decision that makes the most sense to them. Whether it means full distance for this school year or to go with the flow with your school district, it’s not easy. There are pros and cons to both, but I will say this every time, I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve learned how resilient my kids are.
All the changes were overwhelming. Each teacher and school had to navigate what worked best for them to be able to interact and teach the kids. My oldest enjoyed it. Being in fifth grade, assignments are online heavy with the applications he had to use, and I saw him flourish in the environment. We even considered looking at the full- time distance learning academy launching next school year. On the other hand, I saw my twins struggle a little as they got used to this new routine. They rely on an interpreter with their hearing loss and at the beginning, we were navigating how to ensure they saw both the teacher and their interpreter on the Google Meet and adding in when and how they would be “pulled out” for their special services like Speech and Deaf and Hard of Hearing (DHH) support. On top of that, going back to in school learning meant masks and shields, which can be tough for them as voice volume can get muffled and facial expressions are hard to discern. Both important items for them as they interacted with their class.
The shift back to all in-person learning was both a relief and a little nerve-wracking for me.
The kids were ready. They wanted to be able to see their friends, teachers and staff. It meant another change in routine, especially now with us living with my parents temporarily. It could be a thirty-minute drive to school, depending on traffic. Now it was a matter of timing and who would be driving them to and from school. Majority would be done by my husband, who is a stay-at-home dad, but it also meant trying to juggle the baby. Do we take him with or keep him at home? With a farther drive, it meant the kids would need to wake up an hour earlier than usual and decide, depending on my meeting schedule, if I could take care of baby while my husband was shuttling the older kids during the work week. It’s been a month so far and I can proudly say we are managing it. There are some tough days, but we’ve learned in this environment, you pivot as you go.
Preparing for school looks different.
With all the adjustments with school, even getting ready for the day looks different. We would have never imagined this would include making sure the kids have not just their winter gear, backpacks, schoolwork and snacks, but ensure they have not just one, but multiple masks for the day. It’s also changed in the fact there is no sharing. This means each kid has their own iPad or Chromebook they need to make sure is charged every night and is brought to school every day. I try to make sure things are packed the night before because I’ve learned doing some things the morning of is a recipe for disaster. Someone always forgets something. We’ve already forgotten water bottles, snacks, winter gear and devices at home or in the car. Kids will be kids, but trying to avoid general forgetfulness is key for us now since we can’t just drive 5 minutes to school to drop off something left at home.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
Yes, cliché I know, but if my husband and I cannot communicate properly things would fall apart. We are not perfect, we have gotten frustrated with each other this past month, but I must remember it could be worse. I thank our lucky stars every day that we are healthy. We are getting through this little by little and we need to give each other grace. I will make a mistake and so will my husband. It’s a good reminder to still take time to support the other. Whether it’s tag teaming with breakfast or taking turns with pick up and drop off, it’s necessary to work together to make this work for everyone.
Decisions on sending my kids to school are different.
Even though we were always careful before, every little sniffle and cough was evaluated, I look at small signs of illness more differently now. The usual “Oh, it’s just a runny nose…” does not run through my mind. Protocols at school are different to protect everyone. In the past, we always kept our kids home if they did not feel good. I know for many, it’s not an option due to work or daycare reasons. We are lucky that I work from home full-time and my husband is a stay-at-home dad. When one or more of our kids are sick, one of us is usually always home. With the pandemic, I think even more about the safety of not just my own children but everyone at school. I know that one exposure means quarantining and no school. So, I take even a little sniffle seriously. Any kind of sign they don’t feel good, they are staying home. I understand many are frustrated with all the school missed so far, but I also understand what it means if I send my child sick to school and it happens to be more than just that sniffle. One day is better than another 7-14 days out of school and so I’ll take that any day.
Remember to be kind.
Yes, I will not agree with every decision that is made on the school district level. Yes, I will get frustrated with this process. Yes, I know there are not just academic concerns but emotional and behavioral concerns if all kids can’t be in school. Yes, I know we are all tired of this pandemic. But… Let’s remember to be kind to one another. Remember to try and not show anger or frustration to our kids. Kids are impressionable and follow their parents’ lead. Be respectful of ALL opinions. There is no point in name calling and arguing. Remember we are all in the same boat. We want kids in school, we want them to be safe. Know that as hard as it is to understand sometimes, school districts and the state are trying their best to make it happen. Right now, our kids need to see how supportive, we as adults, can be towards one another.
I applaud every teacher and every school staff member.
To the teachers, I know you’d rather have our kids in class and to do what you love, which is teach and take care of our children’s education. Know that I see you and I admire you all. You have collectively had to pivot with all these changes too, and not once do you complain or make it less than a stellar experience for the kids. Know that I see you being the emotional support my kids need during this time. You go above and beyond to ensure our kids are taken care of. I know that many of you also have the same fears and worries that I do as a parent and you are still going to work every day and counting on us to keep you safe too. I will always try to support and help you with what you need to be successful every day. You have one of the hardest jobs of all right now, and know that I appreciate everything you have done for my kids.
Going back to school has been different but…
I’m going to keep on going with the flow. We talk about going back to “normal.” It takes each one of us to do our part so we can get back to that. I am hoping we are almost to that finish line. So, Let’s Do This Thing!