We Found Out About School

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July 30th the Minnesota Board of Education joined Governor Tim Walz and the Minnesota Department of Health to share their strategy for keeping schools, teachers, and communities healthy during the 2020-2021 school year while maneuvering the ever-changing landscape of COVID-19.

Minnesota school districts and charter schools must adhere to the health requirements and recommendations of the Minnesota Department of Health’s 2020-21 Planning Guidance for Minnesota Schools. The three scenarios being considered are:

  • Scenario 1: In-person* learning for all students
  • Scenario 2: Hybrid learning with strict social distancing and capacity limits
  • Scenario 3: Distance learning only

*Note: for those who are unable to attend in-person school, a distance learning option will be made available.

We’ve all been holding our breath. We’re getting ready to find out the plot of the movie we’re currently the stars of.  What are the next nine months going to look like for us?

The new localized data driven Safe Learning Plan will most certainly inform our plans on what we plan to do with our children in the fall.  There are a lot of strong opinions floating around about what individual families plan to do or even what they feel the right answer is regarding schooling for the 2020-2021 academic cycle.

The internet is an incredibly divisive place to be these days. Some of it completely and rightly justified.  Some of it…the culmination of living life through a pandemic, cultural revolution, and absolutely zero work/life balance.  Let’s face it, many of us feel stressed.  It’s okay to say it, or in this case shout it.  WE’RE STRESSSSED!I want to be so bold as to suggest we lay down some guidelines for all of us…and the upcoming school year for that matter.  We can do our best to implement these when responding to other’s choices about school in the fall. The onlyonlyonly way we are going to get through this is with discernment, empathy, and civility.  Let’s go through a few scenarios:

  1. “Our family has chosen to send our kids to school if they are allowed.  Even if it is hybrid.”

We see you, family.  We see you, two partners with with full time jobs. We see you with no family in town, and no back-up childcare.  We see you single moms, working a full time job with absolutely zero margin. We see you juggling your employment and feeling caught in an impossible situation. We see that you simply do not feel equipped to school at home and that the best choice is for your kids to be in-person at school. We understand that that this is the best choice for you and we will support you as you do what’s best for your family.

2. “Our family has chosen to pull out of any face-to-face learning in school that is offered and take advantage of the distance learning the district is providing or enroll in another online option.”

We see you, family.  We see you as you navigate being mindful of the immune-compromised in your family.  We see you in the decision to be extra cautious in sending your children.  We see you acknowledging that you have the skill-set and the capability to help guide your child’s distance learning.  We see you making space in classrooms for kids who don’t have your choice. Thank you for your kindness. We understand that that this is the best choice for you and we will support you as you do what’s best for your family.

3. “Our family has chosen to unenroll this year and homeschool our children.”

We see you, family.  We see you choosing to take a more decisive role in the education of your children and choosing homeschool this year.  We see your effort, passion, and enthusiasm to provide what you feel is the best environment for your child. We commend your efforts and thank you for raising your children and educating them in the way that they will respond the best. We understand that this is the best choice for you and we will support you as you do what’s best for your family.

4. “Our family has chosen to hold back our Kindergartner and have them start school in the First Grade.”

We see you, family.  We see you wanting a different first school experience for your child. We see you wanting apples on the first day, that sweet walk to the door hand-in-hand as you say goodbye to days together and hello to new adventures.  This isn’t the way Kindergarten is supposed to look. We understand that that this is the best choice for you and we will support you as you do what’s best for your family.

5. “I’m a teacher.  I don’t know how I feel or what to think or even how I will manage my classroom. I just want to teach effectively.”

We see you, teachers.   We see your pain and your frustration that none of this is what you thought your education career would look like. We see you trying to figure out how you will  nurture, guide, and comfort.  We see you busily preparing to do school within three different scenarios.  We see you scrambling to figure out how you will teach your own kids at home. We understand that that you’ve been given an impossible and unpredictable scenario and none of these scenarios are the best solution.

Each scenario above features a family or individuals who are doing their very best and working to ensure whatever they choose for their child’s education in the fall is the best fit and the best choice for their family.  It is impossible for us to imagine what their experiences might be that have lead them to their decision.  So as Brené Brown says, “we must believe them as they see it.” This is the only way forward, friends.

We’ve been tumbling down a slope of anger, frustration, and divisiveness in 2020.  Some of it might be misdirected at others if we are feeling strong things about other stressful area in our lives. It just spills over. Some of it might be the perfect energy we need to tackle tough areas in our lives. Let’s resolve to approach this year with the following guidelines in mind:

  1. Assume the Best.  It’s easy for us to think that others have bad intentions or that they are purposefully trying to inflict hurt.  Let’s assume the opposite…that they are acting with the very best of intentions.
  2. Several years ago I learned a helpful phrase from a business leader. When left with your jaw hanging open at someone’s actions or decisions, instead of exclaiming “WHAT were they THINKING!” we turn it into a question and ask, “What WERE they thinking?”  Do they have another difficult situation in their life that is affecting their decisions?  Do they have other matters to consider?
  3. Extend Grace. Even when you don’t want to.  Make the choice to choose to be gracious to others when you don’t know the whole story.  And even when you do.

This school year will be unlike any year ever faced in modern history.  NO one has the playbook.  There is ZERO precedent. Covid-19 sucks. We’re figuring it out as we go, friends.  Let’s give each other margin…the opportunity to choose differently than us and let that be ok.  Let’s support each other and commit to discernment, empathy, and civility.  This year is going to be tough, no doubt.  Let’s not unnecessarily be tough on each other.

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