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Back to School in 2021

As we all know, the end of 2019 and all of 2020 was a rollercoaster. And it wasn’t one of those cool coasters that everyone waits in line for hours to ride. No. It’s the one in your nightmares, where it gets stuck upside-down and you are terrified and can’t get off.

Given the new guidelines, it’s probable that different schools in different counties will adopt different policies concerning re-opening after 2020’s wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some will have full return. Most will likely have a blend of full return and virtual. Although DeWine signed a bill stating that Ohio schools cannot require the COVID vaccination since it is not yet FDA approved, district policies on mask-wearing and social distancing may still be all over the place. We have never before had to navigate these waters, so I do not envy those in charge of making such decisions. Half the population will love them, and half will despise them, no matter which way they go.

Here’s what we can count on: When school starts back, the seats will be full of students who have listened to the political opinions in their home for well over a year now. Some strongly support the president. Some don’t. Some still do not leave the house without a mask. Some do. Some have been fully vaccinated. Some won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. Some trust what they hear. Some think it’s a conspiracy. Many have no idea what to believe.

These kids have watched the world argue about what’s right. They have seen houses divided. Jobs lost. They have been forced to quarantine. They have gone months without seeing their friends or family members. Many have lived with someone dealing with depression or maybe even developed depression themselves. Some have seen people they love get sick or die, without the benefit of a proper funeral in many cases. For students of all ages, it has been very scary and very confusing in many cases.

We would probably agree that it is already much tougher to be a kid today than it was when we were growing up. But throw in a global pandemic, a presidential election, schools shutting down, fear of going out in public, and everyone fighting…

It. Is. A. Lot.

Most school districts navigated all of this extremely well! As both an educator and a parent, I’m proud to say that the teachers and administrators at the schools I have worked with have been amazing! They recognized that each student had very unique (and sometimes scary) experiences and went above and beyond to make school feel like a safe space. Even with the distancing. Even with the masks. Even with virtual. Even with no special classes. Even when sports were cut. Even when a slew of new rules had to be put into place. When everything changed in the blink of an eye, and my kids still came home from school loving life, I cannot even express how much I appreciate that as a parent! Kudos to all of the teachers, administrators, and school staff (especially the custodians!) who kept our schools running, our students learning, and our parents assured that their children were loved and taken care of. You rock!

Unfortunately, that is not always the case in every school and every classroom, especially on the college level.

For the educators who need to hear it, I’m going to go ahead and say this, even though it may not be the popular opinion: When it comes to any of the above, it is not your place to try to sway a student one way or another. It is not your job to propagate your students against what their parents have taught them. If you are teaching students who are voting age, it is not your responsibility to indoctrinate them with your ideas. Whether you teach preschool or college, keep your opinions to yourself. You have no idea what the student in front of you has had to deal with at home. You can have your opinion and do what makes you feel safe, and they can have their opinion and do what makes them feel safe. That may look different for each of you, but that’s okay.

If they still feel safe wearing a mask.

If they refuse to wear a mask unless it’s mandated.

If they won’t leave the house without being fully vaccinated.

If they live life as normal without a vaccination.

If they sit out a season of sports because they are afraid.

If they play anyway.

If they come back to school.

If they choose virtual.

If they support the same political views as you.

If they don’t.

Do not guilt, shame, or try to sway them.

Do not allow that behavior from other students in your classroom.

To do so is nothing short of bullying, and it’s not okay.

It builds their fear and causes more confusion instead of calming them.

Create a safe space for them to learn without the added pressure of wondering if their teacher will hold it against them if they do things differently.

There, I said it.

Have a blessed school year, everyone!

Read More: Back to School in 2021

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