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Back to school

Taking in the roadside view while taking a break from school reopening plans. (Provided photo — Diane Chase)

It is that time of year when my social media is filled with Back to School photos. Friends are sending their children off to college for the first time or preparing for their child’s return to campus. They are shopping for their elementary, junior high, or high school students’ supply list, lunchbox and “back to school” outfit.

Photos show hallways lined with boxes. We help make the dorm bed with sheets for the first and most likely only time. The rooms are decorated. Clothes are in closets, on hangers, on shelves until we drive off and leave our children to toss their sheets and clothes up in the air and land where they may in familiar chaos. We upload senior photoshoots and reminisce about the times when they were young. We search for bargains and sales. We compare schedules and prepare them for the end of summer. I’m sure it all seems pretty normal, right?

What we don’t see in those photos is all the stress glossed over with the filter of the day. It’s Instagram versus reality. Parents are figuring out all the ways they can provide for their families while working and arranging for each child’s specific educational needs. It’s not as simple as adding masks and hand sanitizer to the supply list. It’s more than understanding a case of the sniffles could have a different meaning. It’s being aware there are backup plans to the backup plans.

The photos that aren’t showing up on my feed are those highlighting the behind-the-scene work and preparation involved on behalf of all teachers, support staff, administrators, and custodial workers. Most people aren’t interested in the computer code running behind the most popular apps, but we want it to work flawlessly. That is what we expect from our schools. We expect perfection. We expect the best and anticipate the worst.

I urge you to remember that school and education may seem like a business, but it is fueled by people. A school may be an inanimate object, but the staff inside makes it a safe, creative, fun place. I wonder if my boss suddenly asked me to completely alter my skills, presentation, and job requirements if I’d be up to the task? At the same time, we expect our teachers, aides, administrators, and custodians to be flexible and understanding.

My children are older now so my role is different. I don’t have to worry about how my children are going to react to remote learning, wearing a mask, or handwashing is never optional. There are going to be misunderstandings as we enter the school year. Let’s use this opportunity to parent our children to ask questions. Let’s be an example where we show diplomacy before we condemn. Before a pandemic, I sent my children off to school and put my trust in teachers. With current reopening, remote and hybrid teaching plans, I do not faltered from that viewpoint. I trust our educators with my most valuable asset –my family.

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