This is my absolute favorite picture of my parents. It must be at least 15 years old- it’s the one I cherish most. I snapped this photo in the backyard of the house I grew up in. My parents have since moved a five hour drive away. It’s tough not being physically close to them right now, but we’re trying to make the most of it. I’ll never forget the look on their faces when I first FaceTimed them back in March while I was going for a walk in one of our favorite local places. Even though we are physically apart, we are still working to intentionally support each other during this tough time.
There really isn’t anything more important in our lives than our relationships with those who we love. Whether it be a partner, parents, children, siblings, close extended family, or friends who are like family, our connections with our loved ones are truly everything- especially now. If you’re like me, the majority of your loved ones live far away, and you find yourself feeling the pull of wanting to be closer. If you’re like many of my close friends, you live with the most important people in your life under the same roof and are trying to balance work life and family life. Both positions are so tough to be in right now, so relationship building and maintaining has to be a bit more intentional these days.
Mistakes I Made in the Spring of 2020
Perhaps the biggest mistake I made in the spring of 2020 was that many of my interactions with my loved ones centered around fear and worry. Understandably, many of our conversations and time spent together focused on the current state of the world. Now, I’m not saying to ignore the state of the world, but I am intentionally working on making my time with loved ones memorable and not always worry-centered.
Also, I just worked way too much and did not leave enough time for myself and my relationships. See post #1 in the series.
What I’ll Do Moving Forward As the School Year Begins
My biggest goal once school starts again is to really compartmentalize my work life and my personal life. This is hard! It’s always something I’ve easily been able to do in the past, but teaching from home is just different. So, when I actually get to safely visit or talk with my family or my close friends I’m going to make the effort to keep work at work, or should I say keep work between the hours of 7:00 and 3:00. After 3:00 will strictly be time for me and my loved ones. Again, see post #1 in the series for more on that.
The one type of relationship I have no business giving advice or reflecting on is that of parent and child. I’m not a parent myself, and I firmly believe in only writing about what I have done or experienced myself. So, I sought out thoughts from some of my trusted friends who proudly have the dual role of parent and teacher.
Some Words from My Teacher-Parent Friends– a huge thank you to the friends who offered their honest thoughts for this piece- I wholeheartedly appreciate you!
“We’re all in this together. We need to stop worrying about our kids falling behind. Everyone is home together. Focus on who they are as people. Help them grow emotionally and foster the human connections they are able to have.”
-Katie, 5th grade teacher & parent of an incoming 6th grader
“I was trying to be really strong and not show my kids how anxious I was about the whole situation, but lately I’ve been trying to be open about my worries. Not to scare them, but my daughter is anxious and I try to talk to her about how it’s okay to be worried, that I feel worried, too, and then we talk about the things I do when I’m worried that help me feel better. We have talked about taking action, because agency helps with worry. As a result, she started making some digital art with inspirational sayings and having us post them.”
-Angie, reading specialist & parent of an incoming 5th grader and 1st grader
“The thing I’m most worried about as we begin school in the fall, is that we will not be able to do anything really well. I worry that I will not be able to give my daughter the attention that she needs to help her focus on a second grade curriculum, and I worry that I won’t be able to perform as I’m meant to as a professional. There was a great cost to our family and our health this last spring as we tried to do everything. We were unable to find a balance in which family was valued as much as work. Because this summer has been filled with work preparing for the school year, it has been hard to nurture the relationships we had prior to Covid. I have made a pledge to myself that I will finish my school preparation this week and then spend the next two weeks focusing on our family relationship. My daughter needs to get out of the house as much as I do, but unfortunately I’ve been tied to a computer.”
-Jenn, 5th grade teacher & parent of an incoming 2nd grader
“I worry about keeping my son out of school because of the pandemic and our high risk family. There is a chance he will be ok and be asymptomatic and never get sick, but it’s not a guarantee and what if his brother, dad or grandma get sick, how will he recover from that? Experiencing Kindergarten is such an important and special time in one’s life, but I know even if he does go, it will not be what it was. Right now, we are spending time together, reading together, baking together… who cares what the house looks like!”
-Stephanie, kindergarten teacher & parent of an incoming kindergartener, two year-old, and four month-old
“My youngest is in high school. Spring was rough because he missed his favorite time of the year—baseball season. He’s a pitcher on the school varsity baseball team. He loves playing but he also loves the social aspect of being on a team. We all don’t want our kiddos to spend too much time playing video games but I was very lenient about that when SIP began because the games are so social. He plays with friends and they’re talking and laughing the whole time. So video games provided a much needed social outlet. He is also spending time working out on his own and with coaches, taking the time to improve his play. Baseball is his passion so he’s putting time and energy into it. All kiddos benefit from having an outlet like he does. Encourage them to find an outlet, whether it’s athletics or art or music or whatever else they love. This is a hard time for kiddos, they’re missing out on so much. Our family also loves playing board games. Take time to do stuff together!”
-Shawn, 3rd grade teacher & parent of an incoming senior
“I’ve been trying different approaches. At the end of the day, my relationship with my children is more important than any task or academic standard. And I try to recognize that sometimes we all just need a break. Apologize and own mistakes. Kids appreciate it and they are very quick to forgive.”
-Elsa, 4th grade teacher & parent of an incoming 1st grader and 3rd grader.
“This spring, we were just stressed as a family. The summer has been nice to try to recapture some sense of normalcy, whatever that can be right now. Right now, I’m going to work with my son so he can be as independent as possible once school starts up again while I’m teaching. As far as our three year-old goes, I don’t know how we’re going to make it work! We’re not worried about academics. We’re concerned about how our kids are feeling emotionally.”
Andy, 6th grade English teacher & parent of an incoming 3rd grader and a three year-old.
“When we lost my mother-in-law to COVID-19 in early April, crisis schooling was the last thing on my family’s list of priorities. Grandma Abrams’ passing gave me a perspective about schoolwork that I otherwise might not have had. I had to let go of my teacher-mother perfectionism, and I gave both myself and my children permission to fail. Yes, I had the Google Classroom app installed on my phone, and I tracked the progress of my older sons as I was more hands-on with my younger sons. But my youngest two children just never got to doing their P.E. and art assignments. No matter what, every day at 1pm, school was over for them, not just because I needed to do my own school work, but because they needed time outdoors and away from screens. Their report cards said “did not participate” in those categories. For one of my older sons, whose school went to pass/fail grading, he passed all his classes, but there were still some report card comments akin to “has great potential, but not giving maximum effort.” My older sons very clearly communicated to me that they did a lot of work and learned very little, and I believed them. If the work they’re doing is a mile wide and an inch deep, and if they can see through that, I will not take the medicine approach and tell them just to suck it up and get work done. This is a situation that calls us of all to be humane.
The saving grace for me was that in my department at CHS, we worked from the New York Times writing curriculum. I collaborated with my supervisor and some colleagues to construct lessons together. It really anchored me, and working on writing with students made me feel like a much better teacher. I could still confer with my students in Google Meet — office hours were in the evening, which works really well for eleventh and twelfth graders. I did a lot of work on weekends — much more than I would during “regular school.” And there were some days when it felt like all my husband and I did was pass off the caregiving baton and manage to eat dinner as a family. I think that my children got to see the “teacher” side of me, but I did not have much scheduled down time with them at all during remote school. I started waking up early to read and have some quiet time, and that helped me to nip resentments in the bud. It was the only scheduled down time that I could guarantee myself!”
-Oona, high school English teacher & parent of an incoming 3rd, 6th, 7th, and 9th grader.
Regardless of the types of relationships you have- whether it be with a partner, parent, child, sibling, close friend, trusted colleague, or other family member, relationships really are everything in life. Nothing is more important. We need those we love and time with those we love more than ever. Nothing else really matters.
Post #6 is coming up on Monday. Each post next week will explore those ever important first days of school. None of us have ever experienced a first day of school like we will experience in the coming weeks. I’m hoping next week’s posts can offer some ideas for practical ways to plan a strong first week from a distance.
All posts in this blog series will be housed here: 15 lessons learned for the 2020-21 School Year, July 20-August 7th Click on the follow this blog link to have the posts delivered to your inbox each day, or check back tomorrow!