Lessons from COVID-19: As School Starts

Gratitude Day 504

Tues., Sept. 1, 2020

Proverbs 9:9 – Teach the wise, and they will become wiser; inform the righteous, and their learning will increase.

Traffic will be considerably busier past our house today. School buses will rumble by. The car and foot and bike traffic will pick up, the first time in nearly six months?

Why?

Today is officially the first day of school in Wisconsin. My social media feeds will be filled with “first day of school photos.” So fun to see!

Maybe in your area, school has already started. Some colleges and universities have been holding classes. Others start this week. Building and facilities and campuses that have had virtually zero census the past six months may jump up considerably this week.

For many students, teachers and staff, there’s often the first day-of-school jitters. But let’s be honest. There are a lot more of those jitters this year. And for a lot more folks.

Several of our grandkids will be attending new buildings and school districts this week. Even for those who are returning to a same building, they have voiced feelings about experiencing new things this school year. Let’s be honest. Anyone remotely connected to a school system know things will be vastly different at the beginning of the school year. Even for those not directly affected, there is awareness this WILL be a different school year.

Some schools are only offering virtual learning. Others have a hybrid system with some in-person and some virtual. A more limited number are giving complete in-person teaching a whirl. I cannot imagine a school without a minimum of three options/plans at the onset of school with contingency plans ready to be enacted at any time, knowing that eventually, new options/plans may also need to be explored. Certainly, the desire for students to participate in sports and other extra-curricular activities is also a major dilemma.

What is the right thing to do? Ask any number of people and you will receive equally the same number of opinions. Keeping students and staff safe are high priorities. Understanding that parents who have been assisting students with education needs for going on six months while often balancing a job are feeling very stretched but also concerned about quality of education. Teaching groups, extra tutors and a variety of other alternative education options have sprung up like crazy. For some, these options just aren’t a consideration and they feel their child is being left behind educationally.

Certainly, I don’t have all the answers for providing education during a pandemic. All I can offer are a few suggestions:

  • Be kind. Be kind to those who have a different opinion about how education should be conducted this fall. Be kind to teachers and staff and bus drivers and school board members and administrators who are trying to offer quality education in a completely different way than they expected/have been trained/prefer. When something doesn’t go as you would like/expect/prefer, please use kindness as your go-to emotion. Not anger. Not disappointment. No displeasure. Yes, you can and should have these reactions as well. But please, please, please let kindness rule the roost and your attitude first.  
  • Fill your heart and mind with lots of grace: for everyone involved. At the end of the day, I honestly believe that people ARE trying to do their best. It is everyone else’s job to recognize and honor this. Period.
  • Be flexible. None of us can look a day or a week or a month into the future and anticipate and know what is going to happen. What we can do is be gracious in knowing things WILL change. As this happens, offer to fill in the gaps and bring some calm into an already chaotic situation. Be part of the solution rather than adding to the already overwhelming problem.
  • Step in and help those who are overwhelmed. Have extra time on your hands? Offer to help those kids in your neighborhood who might benefit from additional attention. Or pitch-hit in with your grandkids or neighborhood kids. Take dinner to a family completely overwhelmed and give them a small break.
  • Ask folks how they are doing and simply LISTEN. When people are in the middle of slugging through a difficult situation, they can often feel alone. Sincerely ask them how they are doing. And then, LISTEN. Do not offer up suggestions or ideas unless specifically asked for. Your role is just to be a listening place. Period.
  • Send encouraging notes or texts to staff and students. It can feel like a VERY LONG year at the beginning of this school year. Re-enforce with those affected that they aren’t along, even if all you can do is offer emotional support. Everyone needs to hear they are doing a good job once in a while.
  • Pray, pray and pray some more. This situation is going to continue for a while. People will get weary. Tired. Perplexed. Encouraging proper mask wearing will get old quickly. Kids will want to see and be with their friends. Teachers maybe teaching on multiple platforms which takes extra time. Administrative folks might be fielding a wide range of opinions. Let me be clear: THERE. ARE. NO. EASY. ANSWERS. Everyone needs some wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit. Be a major advocate for this.

It’s easy for those not making the decisions about education to become arm-chair quarterbacks. Expressing creative ideas and alternatives is great. Yet, I pray we can remain on the positive side of encouragement. Every day. All day. Consistently. Because our education systems need positive cheerleaders. This year, more than ever.

For the opportunities to encourage a positive educational experience, I am grateful.

Blessings –

Dianne

Dear God – We can’t fully imagine how much anxiety and fear there is going into this year’s school year. May those involved tern to You as the important source of wisdom we all need. Amen.  

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