Dear Parents and Caregivers of Children,
School days are once again upon us. While the last six months have been anything but usual, returning to school, although slightly delayed, brings with it a sense of normalcy. Yes, there will be masks and distancing. Yes, there will be more distance learning and restricted movements about the building. But, another yes needs to be considered as well, and that is the fact that kids will be learning (in person or from a distance) core subject matter that will prepare them for future success. There is a real good possibility that challenges will arise. Programs and formats are great on paper, but human beings are not always predictable. Perhaps while trying to offer structure and predictability, one of the greatest gifts we can provide young learners is the ability to adapt to uncertainty. During times of crisis resiliency becomes an important dynamic. Helping students gain skills that promote resilience can provide them with knowledge, at least as, equal to the subject matter they engage. You can help teach such lessons.
Within a few days situations will arise that were not expected. That is a simple truth. When this happens what do we do next? All too often a crisis becomes a manmade catastrophe when we panic, ignore science and fail to adapt. Showing kids that we can change, maintain real (not false) optimism, and find ways to support each other, is so very important. History is replete with those who struggled in school or took non-linear paths. You can always catch up with school. The same is not as easy when it comes to health and mental well-being. Both young people and adults have been forced to choose between important options inclusive of health, family, future, socialization and mental well-being. This has caused a rift for some and consternation for many. School-aged youth have been required to make adult-like decisions.
Twenty years from now folks will look back and share stories about how they survived the coronavirus crisis. More than anything words will be spoken of courage, creativity, resilience, friendship, fear, and how the community stepped up to meet the challenge. The eyes of young people are upon us. Here is an opportunity to teach lessons beyond the classroom. Soon will come the day of buzzing hallways, chatter at lunch, and young people gathered at sporting events, plays, etc. This will not happen until we have a vaccine. Until then, the confluence of community and schools are imperative. In many ways you have become a partner and primary educator during this most unusual time.
I look forward to seeing your sons and daughters next week. Their enthusiasm will do much to carry the day. Recognize that your patient efforts are a huge part of helping kids succeed. We can do this together. Hope to see you soon.
Bob Houghtaling is the director of the East Greenwich Drug Program.