Things Keeping Us Going: Back to School Edition

Next week I start my 37th school year as an educator. You would think that after all this time, it would be tiresome.

Nope.

As the principal I worked for the longest always said, “My two favorite days of the year are the First Day of School and the Last Day of School.” He’s not wrong. They ARE the best.

For the past few weeks,educator friends around the country have been posting photos of their classrooms fresh and ready for the return of the students. That is the kind of internet content I love.

How adorable (and developmentally appropriate) are the preschool classrooms with their little play kitchens and cozy reading nooks? I am tickled by the elementary school teachers with themed decor for their classroom learning stations. (I’m loving that Hello, Kitty second grade room, Mrs. Smith! Two thumbs up for the third grade that chooses reading groups using a Harry Potter sorting hat!) My middle school math teacher friend has filled his room with inspirational quotations and a super cool wall-length mural that the students can color in throughout the year during “brain breaks.”

Last week, my social media feed started filling up with pictures of my friends’ children moving into college. All the co-eds are looking giddy. All the parents are looking proud, and a bit weepy.

The First Day of School photos of school age kids on their front steps or at the bus stop have just begun trickling through my feed, too. My great nephew in Denver has started his senior year in high school. A writer friend in Texas has her kids in different schools this year. You can hear her Mama Bear anxiety behind the pride in her story. My favorite photo, so far, though, has been the one from a sisterfriends’ son. His six kids all started school the same day he started his first day as a civilian after a long and admirable career in the Navy. His wife made sure to include him with his own chalkboard sign in the family photo on the front steps of their new, forever, home.

Last year was a really, really difficult school year for everyone I know. We all expected to get back to “normal” after Covid-19. Then, we didn’t.

All of my early childhood educator colleagues have noted the significant developmental delays caused by the year of Covid-imposed isolation. Children gain many critical social and self-help skills by interactions with peers. Without trips to the library, play dates, experiences going to the grocery store–you know, the ordinary daily activities that bring children in contact with the world–kids miss important opportunities. The young children who arrived at school last September were simply not ready. I have heard about similar learning loss and delays from my colleagues in K-12 classrooms. My professor friends are seeing some challenges with their freshmen, too. Experts are suggesting that it will be several years before our students catch up.

That is why I am really, really enjoying this year’s Back to School pictures. It is a visible sign of hope, documentation of faith in action. We educators are committed to supporting all of our students. Families are trusting in us to do that. And all of us are believing in our children.

For every teacher in every classroom from child care center to graduate school who is preparing for their students, may they be discerning of what is needed right now, persistent despite challenges and setback, and graceful in the face of big feelings from students, parents, and administration.

Lord hear our prayer.

For every child care director, principal, and college administrator may they advocate for their staff so that students real needs can be met. May they be creative in their problem-solving. May they find support in unexpected partnerships.

Lord hear our prayer.

For every parent sending a child to school may you feel peace. May you find true partners in your children’s teachers. May you finally exhale.

Lord hear our prayer.

For every child heading back to school may you know that you are beloved. Know that your families, teachers, and school administrators believe in your abilities to learn and grow. May you feel safe. May you feel smart.

Lord hear our prayer.

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