Part of a series of compassion and grace as school starts 2020: Part 1 for teachers, and Part 2 for parents
To school administrators of all levels,
This last month has been unlike any in your career.
Tell me, when you applied for your job, if they had told you that someday, there would be a mysterious and dangerous illness that no one would know anything about, and you would have to implement pages of policy to keep people safe before we knew everything about it–would you have taken it?
And what if they told you the policies they give you this week would be overridden next week?
And then tweaked two days later, and again a day later.
And, quite possibly, those directives will be completely overhauled the week after. Or maybe the month after. Or both.
Only three days into September, I have already received 10 emails from our school. The last email had a letter 3 pages long, with 15 different links to further information.
Each communication was positive, respectful, and reassuring, anticipating questions from parents; answering our concerns, fears and practical questions. Thank you for that.
The information seems overwhelming to me. I can only imagine the work it took for school administration to wrap their heads around provincial guidelines to pull the million details together–and then concretely enact them.
School administrators, you are my heroes!
How you are expected to develop a complete plan for schooling children safely with incomplete information seems mind boggling. The research on COVID-19 and children is so early and incomplete–there are a lot of holes. I get that people are doing the best they can–but you are developing an entire plan without having all the pieces of a complex puzzle.
Scientists are rapidly gathering pieces of information about transmission, treatment, prevention unique to school aged kids–but we don’t have nearly all of it. The information is incomplete–and being added to and adjusted constantly as data informs us–and your plan needs to be comprehensive.
Here’s the thing: Our children are the most precious gifts we have in life.
I would give up my life for my children. I’ve fought for them before, and I will advocate for them again. Absolutely. 100%.
I am a mama bear for my kids–and there are lots of mama and papa bears out there. I suspect you’ve already met a few of them. 😉
I’m both desperate to have him:
- Return to the goodness of school–his teachers, his friends, his sense of familiarity of school. I love all the goodness school brings him psychologically, emotionally, physically and intellectually. This spring, it also broke my heart to see my child away from supportive teachers, great friends, spirit-building extracurricular activities and all the things at school that are so good for him. He missed all the things. —and
- NOT acquire COVID-19–for his own health and for our family’s wellbeing. I don’t want to catch it. What if I did, and was asymptomatic and inadvertently passed it on to friends, family or clients?
I’m a mom, and so I want it all for my kid…safety from disease, and security of school.
I want it all for my kid.
And this year, despite how much you may desire, you will not be able to give me what I want–no, what I need–for my child.
I’m afraid that is going to make me a bit frustrated this semester when I call the school with a question. I’m liable to be in a mood when I have a question.
So, Ms. or Mr. Principal, please know that some of us aren’t going to be our best selves when we express a concern about our child at school.
I find we are all a little more irritable these days. It doesn’t takes as much to have tone in our voice, irritability in our spirits, and increased volume when we speak.
And when the topic is our children’s wellbeing–well, multiply our anxiety and stress by 10–at least.
Us parents will do our best to notice the reactions we have–as we take in stress of all things COVID-19, we are likely to be tempted to offload it to you. That’s not fair.
Principals, vice-principals and other school administrators, please have compassion for us parents who speak louder, stronger, and more forcefully than is kind or fair to you.
It’s the stress leaking out or exploding from us. Not cool, but sometimes, it’s too hard to hold it in. Especially when it comes to our kids.
We will feel badly later, and if we can manage it, we’ll follow up with another call or an email to apologize. Some of us may feel so much shame, you won’t hear from us–know that those of us that can’t apologize know somewhere deep inside that we did you wrong.
You deserve our compassion–and our admiration. You have it–you might not feel it in the moment, though.
And frankly, you’re not going to hold it all together either. You have pressure from above you–health officials, school boards–and from your staff–teachers and educational assistants. Everyone is going to be on your case–and that will wear on you. We are sorry about how hard it will be on you.
Thank you for your service, school administrators.
We are grateful for all that you are doing to keep our kids safe and to give them a quality education. It won’t be easy this year.
You will drop some balls. Of course you will–nobody can keep that many balls in the air. It’s impossible.
But that won’t stop us from hoping you’ll pull it off. And being disappointed when don’t.
Please take good care of our kids. We love them profoundly, and are frightened. We need you to know how hard it is for us to trust anybody with our children in these days of uncertainty.
We don’t want our advance apology to give us a free pass–inexcusable behaviour is, well, inexcusable. We will do our best, we promise. We owe that to you–and to our kids.
Please–take good care of our kids.
Our children are actual little pieces of our very own hearts, walking outside of us, towards the school doors, by themselves, with masks, towards an uncertain year.
When you take care of our kids, you are taking care of us.
I am grateful.