The back-to-school shopping list looks a little different this year—crayons, pencils, notebooks, hand sanitizer, face masks—but perhaps there has never been a year in which kids (and parents) were more excited and eager for the first day of school to arrive.
At the same time, there may be some anxieties and worries that go far beyond remembering a locker combination or wondering whether your best friend will be in your class.
No matter what grade your child is in this year, it really feels like “the first first day” all over again for everyone. We already know the start of school has been delayed for a couple of weeks, and additional guidance and information are being shared with parents as quickly and clearly as possible, as health and safety recommendations are revised and refined. Still, in a lot of ways, nobody knows what to expect. It’s a new experience for everyone.
All these mixed-up feelings are perfectly valid.
But as our community, like the rest of the country and even the world, prepares to return to something that is as close as possible to “normal,” we can take this opportunity to celebrate the start of school in a year that is perhaps the most unique and special of all.
Many educators and parents are worried—with justification—that children may have experienced a setback in learning as our local districts implemented Non-Traditional Instruction in the final weeks of the previous school year. Virtual instruction, online classes, remote learning … whatever you called it, teachers rose up in heroic measures to provide the best possible lessons and continue to nurture that flame of teaching and learning that traditionally has burned so brightly in our classrooms.
Parents and families stepped up and stepped in to guide their children as they navigated these new experiences, as “schoolwork” became “homework” by new definitions.
Now it’s time to take the next step.
Before we do, let’s take a moment to reflect on where we’ve been. When you stop and think about it, lots of people did lots of stuff in just a little amount of time to make NTI as successful as it was. For that, we are all thankful.
But as kids get ready to go back to school in a “new normal,” I hope they take with them memories of lessons learned that had nothing to do with “school.”
I hope they learned that playing cards and board games with your parents and siblings—with all the laughter and squeals of excitement and even the accusations of cheating—is even more fun than playing a video game in solitary silence.
I hope they had the opportunity to walk and ride their bikes, seeing their neighborhood from a perspective that is very different than the one they had previously viewed from the backseat window of the car as Mom drove them to their next activity. Maybe they finally noticed the pretty flowers in their neighbors’ yards, the colorful wreaths hanging on doors, the cat that slinks out from under the bush and will let you pet it, the methodical progress of the classic car that the old man down the street is restoring. Maybe they were even inspired to share their own creativity in brightening the sidewalks with chalk art.
I hope every child’s family realized, at some point, that we had all been given a great gift: The gift of TIME that we always said we wanted.
Time to go through old family photo albums, finally bringing those faded sepia images to life by sharing stories about our grandparents and great-grandparents.
Time to bake bread from scratch, learn how to write in cursive, practice a musical instrument and fill the neighborhood “Blessing Box” with canned goods.
As our kids prepare to go back to school, let’s hope they take with them memories of the greatest lessons they will ever learn: Nothing is more important than our connections to our families and to one another.