We’ve been in the midst of our parent-teacher conference week. Forging strong connections with families is always important, and it is even more so during these Pandemic times of hybrid and remote learning. All of our conferences are taking place on Zoom, which at times began to take on the role of a video confessional booth, although I didn’t mind when it veered into that direction.
Before we even ventured into the topics about academics or student progress, I consistently started out with the question: How are you (the family doing)? That question caused a pause, and then often a sigh, and then it sometimes opened a floodgate of response, and it was soon very clear — most families are just barely balancing the demands of their own work and lives with the school lives of their kids, and their collective nerves are frayed.
Some parents leaned in to apologize for not doing enough to help support their child’s learning during the Independent/Remote Days (in our Hybrid, we see students two days a week in the building, and then they are home for three days, doing independent work). Some families, primarily those with more than one child at school, admitted they just can’t keep up with the emails and notifications from different teachers, and have stopped looking.
More than one parent started to tear up. Many asked for more advice on how they can best support their child at home. Most said something along the lines of, “We’re doing what we can, but it doesn’t feel like it’s nearly enough.” They have not given up, but most seem resigned to the reality of the situation.
More than a few asked pointed questions about whether we are seeing gaps in academic performance due to the Spring shut-down and current Hybrid model, and if so, what would those gaps mean? I spoke reassuringly about what we are seeing, what we are doing, and the direction we are heading as a school. Parents seemed relieved by information and anecdotes.
All expressed heartfelt thanks for the teachers and the work we are doing, which I appreciate (particularly given some contentious decision-making by our local School Committee over fully re-opening the school and eliminating the six-foot-distancing rule, which families pushed back against, hard, leading to a reversal of that decision for the upper grades).
I found myself, often, urging parents to find forgiveness for themselves, to remember that we are still in a Pandemic and, unfortunately, the Pandemic is getting worse right now with winter coming, not better. I reminded them that all we can ever do, is the best we can do, and that taking care of our families is priority number one. For some, that means working from home. For others, it means trusting children to be productive in their independence.
Be kind to yourself, I told one single parent, who was distraught as our conversation unfolded. Family first. We will work together to address any school issues, I told them. You are not alone in this. Forgive yourself, for you are doing what you can in this moment of uncertainty, I reminded them. That is what our children need — love and support and stability — more than anything else.
Maybe I was reminding myself, too, as much as giving them a gift of forgiveness to give themselves.
Peace (to you),