With bated breath, we waited for schools and districts to announce plans for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. As expected, reactions are divided as this affects every family differently. I can’t begin to imagine what the decision-makers are going through as they weigh different plans and options. But now that we have a plan-ish, it’s time to settle down and figure out how this is all going to work. First thing’s first: all of us, like the whole world, need to be on the same page. Capisce?
Deep breath. We can do this! And here’s how:
Listen, sister. We will all need a little grace this year. We will need to extend grace to our teachers and administrators. This is new territory for them too, so if assignments aren’t graded quickly, or technology fails, or you see them fumbling around, please give them grace. Our kids will likely be emotional as they adapt to a different type of school structure. They will miss assignments, and they might not see shiny A’s across their report cards this year. They may lack motivation and self-control as we all have these past few months. And that’s ok! Grace. Also, Mama, you’re going to have to give yourself grace. I have a feeling the mom-of-the-year award will be canceled along with everything else this year, so let’s just aim for the participation trophy. Mmmkay? Give yourself grace as you adjust to virtual school, hybrid school, home school, along with all the other things that you juggle every day.
Have realistic expectations.
This one goes out to employers: if you employ a parent, likely their eight-to-five hours might need some adjusting. Or a lot of modifications. If their kids are going to school, chances are their kids will not be attending full time. Just as schools are adjusting to new schedules, businesses will have to do the same as well. Emails may be answered after hours, phone calls may need to be returned, and their schedules might have to be hybrid just like their child’s. If you’re able to be flexible here, please do so. It may take some creativity, but hopefully, you and your employee can come up with a way to still keep your business afloat while keeping their income rolling in.
And now for the teachers: parents (especially those working from home) will not be able to keep up with the demands of holding their kid’s hands through virtual school. Especially if there are multiple kids at home. Facilitating school takes them away from their day jobs and mom jobs. Kids won’t be receiving the gentle, in-class reminders from y’all to work hard, complete assignments, to spell check, etc. Their classwork may not be their very best work. The good news is that this is a learning period for students to gain independence which is a win for parents, teachers, and our future society!
School Boards and Administrators: can we press pause on truancy laws? Because in order for us to keep everyone well, we’re going to have to …
Err on the side of Covid.
Our goal will be to at least try to keep everyone well. If your child has the sniffles, is coughing or sneezing, has even the slightest elevated temperature, please keep them at home. Do not pump them with Tylenol and Sudafed and send them off to school. Sure, this may be common sense, but we know it happens. We need to keep our teachers well, we want our kids well, and we don’t want to all have to have to go back to how things were in March. But in case it does…
Don’t just be flexible, be fluid.
Anticipate that things will change because that’ll make it easier when they do. Notice I said “when”, not “if.” Don’t get so set in one way that a change will topple you over. Chances are we may start off the year one way, and then the schools will have to send whole classes home to quarantine. The plan is: to roll with it. It’s easier said than done, but penciling things in instead of using a Sharpie will be more realistic for this school year.
Set boundaries at home.
I’m taking a writing course with Bob Goff who suggested that we writers should literally put on our writing hats. That act alone has changed the amount of work that I am able to do from home with kids around. When they see my hat (actually, it’s a yellow hair bow) on my head, they know that I am not to be disturbed. I make sure to take off my bow when I take breaks to let them know that I can talk for a bit or help make lunch. Your boundaries may look a little different. For parents with littles, it may mean extended independent playtime in their bedrooms, or blocking off one area of the house for them to play in. It might look like using timers and posting daily schedules for you and the kids to get work and school done. It also may mean that you work from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., then again from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. and put in a few more hours after the kids go to bed. It’s not ideal, but then again, none of this is and that’s no one’s fault. It’s what has to be done.
Moms, we won’t be able to do this alone. Dads will also need to juggle school and work as well. If your jobs aren’t flexible, look into sitter options. Reach out to college or high school students who have the same hybrid schedule as your child. Perhaps you and your neighbor can trade days with the kids. Do not feel like you have to do this alone. As a community, we can come together to help each other. You just have to be brave enough to ask for help.
And lastly, please be kind. Everyone’s emotional health is hanging on by a thread. We are having to make hard decisions for our kids and that decision may look different from yours. Our situations are different so what we choose will be different as well. And that’s ok. It’ll all be ok. You do you, boo. And I’ll do me. And we’ll get through this. In case you can’t tell, there’s a smile underneath my mask. #Fistbump. We’ve got this.