Grace, empathy, and patience needed in education in the era of COVID-19
Updated: Jun 26, 2020
For many of us, we are now in our fourth month of the “new normal” of COVID-19, which feels like anything but normal for the stakeholders of education. Whether it is for parents, teachers and staff, and most importantly, the children themselves, the old life of education seems a thing of the past. No doubt that we all long for the day of mindlessly getting up and hurrying to the bus stop or off to the school drop off without concern of a deadly virus. I suppose we never realized how wonderful the mundane could be until it was gone. As we race through the month of June, schools across the nation are working feverishly to prepare for the new school year under the confines of a “new normal.” Every facet of how we educate children is being examined, things we used to take for granted are changing. For example, some schools are now considering the ubiquitous hallway water fountains to be a thing of the past, at least for now. After all, everything is a potential source for spreading the virus. Bus transportation will have to be different. Classrooms will have to be adjusted for the health and safety for others instead of being solely driven by educational needs. The list goes on. I understand it daunting and I know it’s scary. I have two children of my own in school. My wife is an elementary teacher. Also, educating is what I do. It is who I am since I took that first education course in college in 1980. This educational crisis hits home in many ways for me. But let’s try to change our perception of our current educational crisis. Let’s look at it as a challenge rather than a crisis, an opportunity for stakeholders to work together for the greatest of all good – our children.
It is no doubt a very confusing and scary time for the children. Parents, schools, and the community at large are going to need to come together and show incredible grace towards one another as we approach returning to school after summer break. There are going to be no easy answers to the challenge, and quite frankly, likely no plan will come forth that everyone roundly agrees upon. That’s because all of the stakeholders bring to the table a variety of different needs and concerns. Educators: we are going to have to show empathy for our parents. Some will want or even need schools to feel as close to normal as humanly possible under the circumstances. Other parents will naturally be very concerned about the safety of their child for any number of reasons and require accommodations outside of the scope of what we used to think of as normal. We are going to have to be agile in how we approach every family’s needs. Parents: educators need you to understand that every new policy, every new way of doing things at school, are likely out of our control. Perhaps it was mandated by a state agency, or even more likely, it’s because of the challenges we face with COVID-19 at the local levels. Those challenges will force schools to look and feel different. It’s simply not going to look like or feel like what we knew before March of 2020. Community: please know that we, both parents and educators, are dedicated to one singular goal in this challenging situation, something I call my “Rule One” in education: keeping children safe so that they can learn. Bell schedules will likely change, and buses may have to run multiple routes. The community as a whole, even those without children in the schools, will no doubt feel the differences from the past, if even in secondary ways. We need your patience and understanding as well. We want our old normal too; it’s just not here yet. If we can take away anything positive from facing this challenge in education, I hope that it is this: everyone needs to show incredible grace, patience, and empathy towards one another. We all have one goal and that is to keep the most precious of gifts – the children – safe and well so that they can learn to the greatest extent possible amidst this challenge.