Back to School?
Updated: Sep 11, 2020
As a former student, teacher, parent, and school board member, I can’t escape the “Back to School” mentality that’s cemented into my being. Early September is always the start to my year, not January first. It’s late summer that I best focus on new beginnings, changing routines, and establishing goals.
However, this is the first year in forever that no one in our family is in school. It’s strange, almost as if summer lacks a definite period. Instead, there is an ellipsis… as the warm days linger on, everything is status quo, and there are no pencils, notebooks, or backpacks to be purchased. Yet, a part of me still wants the yellow bus to show up, anticipates the multitude of forms I must sign on the first day of school, and longs for a stricter routine with a definite delineation between weekdays and weekends.
While my lack of a “back to school” makes this September seem so strange, my heart goes out to those who are actually dealing with a nontraditional start to the year. “Back to School 2020” is anything but easy. Whether your kids are physically in school, online at home, or managing a hybrid model, this system can be uncomfortable, foreign, and disconcerting. And, while the new format for education may be challenging for students, parents are also affected, as they are faced with many unanswerable questions…
· Is my child learning what he or she needs to learn?
· When will our kids be able to freely play with their friends? Socialization is important.
· Isn’t this too much screen time? My son/daughter can’t sit still for that long.
· What about sports? My kid needs to burn off energy.
· How will this affect the college admissions process?
· What about our kids in college? We’re paying $_____ for them to learn from a laptop?
· And what about the teachers? Most have been trained to teach in the classroom, not from their home or to students who are physically distanced from one another. This just isn’t natural!
· How can I get my own work done when my child is in the next room, supposedly learning online?
And the list of questions goes on and on.
Unfortunately, there are no perfect solutions to the current quandary that our educational systems face. Instead, we can only hope, do our best, and adopt an optimistic attitude that all will be well. If we are able to realize our lack of control, let go of our frustrations, and accept the situation for what it is, then we are better equipped to ride the waves of uncertainty, safely staying afloat until we land on solid shores.
But what can we do to help normalize “back to school”?
As much as we might wish for this September to resemble those of the past, we can’t control how our schools operate. However, we can make choices that will add grace and ease to our life…
1. Take time for you. Acknowledge that this is an extremely stressful period for everyone. When we are unable to “fix” the world around us, we often feel helpless. Yet, we can choose to take care of ourselves. Consider doing something that you normally wouldn’t do… book a massage, take a nap, spend an afternoon alone… whatever you need to unwind. I actually took a bath on Sunday. It felt strange just sitting there with nothing to do. But I resisted the urge to jump out of the tub and return to the many tasks on my list. Instead, I allowed myself to linger, enjoy the hot water, and turn off my restless mind.
2. Help a friend. Nothing can cure the blues like making another’s life better. Maybe you can pick up groceries for a neighbor, or perhaps you could take a friend’s kids for the afternoon so they could have a break. Ask yourself what would make your life easier, then go and offer that to another.
3. Exercise - run, bike, walk, do yoga - whatever calms your soul and releases pent up energy. Just do it.
4. Meditate. Become still. Look within. When you quiet your mind, it’s amazing what “aha’s” you’ll discover.
5. Ask yourself, “What do I want?” This is a very interesting question and something that we rarely do. When my coach recently asked me this question, it caused me to pause… what did I want? At first, I wasn’t sure. After all, haven’t we focused on taking care of others these past six months? What if we actually considered what we need?
6. Forgive… yourself and those around you. Now, more than ever, people are being triggered, resulting in words or actions which can be hurtful. But now is not the time to judge, blame, shame, or criticize. If we are going to come out of this current situation with our friends and family intact, we must be kind, compassionate, accepting, tolerant, and loving.
7. Embrace the question marks in life, allowing yourself to not know what is ahead. Personally, this is tough. I like a plan, a detailed one. Yet recently, most of my plans have been ditched, cancelled, or postponed. Very little is certain. Consider what can be learned from this crazy period. Are we adopting patience, acceptance, flexibility? I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use more of these qualities in my life. Yet, in order to assume these traits, we must first welcome them, understand what each means, and then experience how they feel. This is the perfect environment to experiment, if we can only stop resisting what is.
8. Practice gratitude. Instead of focusing on what's wrong and not currently available to you, take inventory of the many blessings in your life. Pause, reflect, be grateful. Then take that feeling and carry it with you for the rest of the day. Notice what changes.
While this September feels incredibly awkward, I’m determined to be open to the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. Because if we only do what we’ve always done, we’ll always end up with the same results.
I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for a kinder, gentler world. I want everyone to live in an environment that is inclusive, accepting, prosperous, and healthy. But for humanity to grow, evolve, and thrive, we must face uncertain landscapes, weather unforeseen storms, and step into the unknown. That is where we're at, and that is how we elevate.