Family

Encouragement for Parents and Teachers

Eight Thoughts for an Abnormal School Year

September 5, 2020 by

The start of a new school year has always been something so many of us look forward to. As summer activities wind down, it’s a fresh opportunity for children in a new grade, a chance to catch up with old friends or make new ones, to try a new sport or join a club. Parents are typically relieved that their children will return to the structure and routine of the school day, and that they’ll be stretching and broadening their minds. Whether parents have a new first grader, or expect to watch a senior graduate next spring, there are so many important milestones marked by a school year – with this fall, for so many, being an exception.

We know for sure that this school year will be different. At least to start with, many schools across the United States will not be opening their doors for in-person instruction, or are requiring children to stay home for part of the school week. Whether there will even be sports or extracurricular activities remains a question in many places.

As a parent of six who is now a grandfather, I can only imagine the anxiety and tension of parents trying to balance their children’s education online from home with work schedules and other commitments necessary to keep a family together and get food on the table. And teachers, I know that these and additional challenges face you and weigh on your hearts. Having to teach remotely must be daunting. We know how children thrive on interaction with you and one another. Some students might succeed with distance learning, but many will not, so with you we look forward to the day when school can resume in person.

father and son

For the time being, though I wish I could provide an answer or help more, I can give a few words of encouragement. Here are a few things we can hold on to, whatever comes next:

  1. For parents, the days ahead will be challenging. Your fears, frustrations, and worries are well-founded. But the souls of your children have been entrusted into your hands by God, and I firmly believe that God will give you the wisdom, courage, love, and faith to know what is best for each one, and to persevere even in the face of previously unimaginable obstacles.
  2. Our children are our most precious resource – for our families and for our world. This pandemic is affecting them in ways none of us could have imagined. But we know that children can have incredible resilience when they have loving and supportive relationships with the adults in their lives. Some will even thrive on adversity and surprise us adults.
  3. Consistency in a child’s daily schedule is important; build a consistent schedule around when they start class, take breaks, or eat their meals. As parents you will have to defend that and make it happen, even at the expense of other activities or commitments.
  4. To combat the disruption and uncertainty of this new school year, find ways to gather your family in the morning or evening. Ask your children what is on their hearts, then take it together to the Lord in prayer. Whenever my wife and I did this with our children, it provided a sense of comfort and security for them.
  5. Reassure your children that everything will be OK. Know that it is also OK to tell them you don’t have the answers to all of their questions, but that you and their teachers want the best for them and will make the best of this school year.
  6. Remember, it is not so important for your children to learn every last detail of their academics, as long as they learn right from wrong and how to live honestly and well. If they have learned that, you have fulfilled your task as parents. As author and educator Johann Christoph Arnold writes in his book, Their Name Is Today, “Discipline is probably the most misunderstood word in the vocabulary of both teaching and parenting. It is not a matter of control, suppression, or coercion – these are in fact the opposite of true discipline. What is it then? In the end it’s nothing more than guiding children to choose right over wrong.”
  7. This year all children, parents, and teachers will need more support and encouragement than ever. Maybe the disruption of the pandemic will cause parents and families to collaborate and work together, such as by forming homeschool pods or clusters. This may require stepping out of our comfort zones and the self-reliant routines we may be accustomed to. Maybe this year we will open new lines of communication with one another as we discover creative ways to remain safe, while providing an education so our children will thrive.
  8. While educators are doing their best using modern technology to teach and educate, we all know putting children and teenagers in front of a computer screen all day is not the most productive. Left unchecked, technology in the hands of children and adults alike can open doors that are harmful and destructive – but even without that, it can be draining. So don’t forget that when you have had a stressful day at work and the children are frustrated after being stuck at home removed from their peers, a hug or a word of encouragement from Dad or Mom can save the day!

So, to all parents and teachers, I wish you courage and fortitude to face this new school year with hope in a seemingly hopeless environment, with peace during a tumultuous time, and with security in an insecure world. I believe in you and have full trust that you and your children will come through this protected, resilient, and blessed.

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About the author

Paul Winter

Paul Winter

Paul Winter serves as the Elder of the Bruderhof. He lives with his wife, Betty, at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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