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Learning in uncertain times

The one thing that’s certain about this school year is that absolutely nothing is certain about this school year.

The class of 2020, including my son, Jake, had its senior year cut short due to COVID-19, but the class of 2021, including my son, Luke, is heading into senior year with uncertainty from the start.

Aside from classes, there are so many unanswered questions about things that are really important to students: Will there be a football season? A homecoming dance? A fall musical? Band and vocal concerts? Once again, seniors are grieving the potential loss of these important “lasts.”

Not knowing what to expect is hard. It creates all kinds of anxiety for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. When that uncertainty is compounded by the fear of illness, anxiety goes through the roof.

School districts are starting this year in a variety of ways. Some are strictly online from the beginning, some are doing a hybrid schedule of online and in-person learning, and others are holding class on a normal schedule with certain restrictions in place. Some schools require everyone to wear masks. Others don’t.

This has become such a divisive issue in our country that no matter what, there are parents who are unhappy, and likely very vocal about their feelings. Those in rural districts may feel like they’re held to standards that may be needed in more crowded urban schools but that don’t apply to them.

These decisions may be out of the administrators’ hands, but that won’t stop parents from lodging complaints or taking to social media.

One thing I’m sure about is that administrators and teachers — many of whom are in high-risk groups — are doing their best. They have been put in an impossible position. When classes went online last spring, everyone was winging it, but teachers have been preparing for online learning ever since.

Administrators spent the summer working to overcome connectivity issues by acquiring additional laptops and even hotspots for families without high-speed internet access (like mine).

If things didn’t go well for your children last spring, don’t assume this year will be the same. Assure your children they will be OK no matter what school looks like. Let them see you offering support to their educators and practicing patience and kindness. That’s a lesson that will last a lifetime. 

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