I have really tried to avoid this conversation, but I can no longer do that. The subject of the 2020-2021 school year has given me knots in my stomach for weeks. The venom and hatred spewed on social media on this topic is outrageous. Everyone has an opinion and they seem to think their opinion is the only one that matters. Many place judgements on anyone that disagrees with them. The mix of people who are for opening school and those against it cannot seem to agree on anything, and it has really gotten out of hand. Between the mask debate, transportation dilemma, and the overall safety of students and staff, no one agrees on much of anything. Let’s not even get into the argument on the quality of distance learning we all got in the spring either. I personally believe that there is no right or wrong answer here because it depends on each person’s individual situation. I could honestly choose two different scenarios for both of my children because they have very different needs, but neither are an option that I really feel good about. As a parent, it is hard not to get sucked into all of the discussions on social media despite how much we try to avoid it. I admit that I have gone down the rabbit hole more times than I care to admit, and all it does is just make me more anxious and nervous about my choices. We are all concerned about the health AND education of our children, but we are also all struggling with making the right choice. I feel like I am also struggling as a parent with a teacher brain. (Once a teacher, always a teacher whether you are actually in the classroom anymore or not.) This is actually one time that I do not regret not being in the classroom because the stress and strain this is putting on teachers is just as hard as it is for parents, only teachers have to think about their own well-being, their own family’s health, and what they think is best for their students. I have seen teachers be crucified over distance learning which they had very little control over in the spring and for their stance on returning to school. I’ve also seen school board members being threatened by individuals who don’t agree with them. It is all completely unacceptable behavior, and it is making us all crazy.
I am not writing this to tell you my opinion on going back to school. I am not here to argue with you over masks or the safety of your child. My only purpose for writing this is to try to discourage you all from joining in the arguments and hatred towards each other, school officials, government officials, or any Joe Schmoe on the internet. EVERYONE is trying to do the best they can given the circumstances. Spewing hatred and getting into arguments or debates over it isn’t doing anyone any good. It is in fact causing more harm. It is making everyone second guess what their gut is telling them to do, and it is causing dissention when we should be rallying together to figure out the safest and best way to educate our children. There is no perfect answer that is going to fit every teacher or every child. All we can do is try our best. We must accept that times have changed, and things aren’t going to go back to normal any time soon. This virus is not going to miraculously disappear overnight. No amount of arguing is going to change that. I encourage you to trust your own gut and instincts and make decisions based on your individual children. Try to stay off social media and tune out all the chatter. Avoid getting into debates. Do what is best for your child and your family regardless of what anyone else thinks. Be kind to teachers. This isn’t an easy decision for them either, and they haven’t been trained on how to do this. I guarantee you, though, that the majority of them just want what is best for their students and are giving it their all despite all the challenges.
My advice to you as a parent and a former teacher is to tune it all out. I know that is easier said than done because I have struggled with it myself, but I am trying really hard to follow my own advice. Take a good look at each of your children and decide what their specific needs are. Then choose the option that best fits those needs and walk away. Make your decision and let it go. Don’t entertain anyone else’s opinion because their opinion doesn’t matter. You know your child best and you don’t need anyone else to convince you otherwise. Parents know best! No, your options may not be ideal or what you really want, but you have to pick whatever option gives your child the most of what he or she needs.
I finally entered in my binding decision for my children yesterday, and I can’t tell you how much weight that has removed from my shoulders. I do feel judged by some people, but that’s ok. I am doing what I think is best for my kids. I have made my choice based on my kids and not anyone else’s opinion, and now I am going to let it go. I am planning to remove myself from the groups on social media that are causing me anxiety and move on. That is all we can do, and it is all we have control over in these crazy times. Parents know best!