Breathe a sigh of relief, parents of school-aged children. This teacher's message is one we all need to read.

By Zara Hanawalt
January 12, 2021
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If you're the parent of a school-aged child, you're almost certainly worried about how the pandemic will affect your kids in just about every way—socially, mentally, emotionally and, let's not forget, academically. With everything going on in the world, it's natural to stress about how this year of social distancing, mask-wearing, and virtual learning may deter your child's progress in school. But, according to one teacher, you should stop worrying about them "catching up".

The post comes from Teresa Thayer Snyder, a retired educator and grandmother, who felt "compelled" to address the mindset of wanting our kids to "catch up" that many parents are carrying right now.

"My goodness, what a disconcerting thing to be concerned about in the face of a pandemic which is affecting millions of people around the country and the world. It speaks to one of my biggest fears for the children when they return," Snyder writes. "In our determination to 'catch them up,' I fear that we will lose who they are and what they have learned during this unprecedented era. What on earth are we trying to catch them up on?"

Snyder is right. Traditional schooling may have been hit hard by the pandemic, but we've been served some incredibly important lessons. We've learned to appreciate good health. We've realized the value of being selfless in order to protect our communities. We've discovered how precious time with loved ones truly is. Some have learned the hardest lessons of all: Lessons of grief or loss or all-consuming fear.

"When the children return to school, they will have returned with a new history that we will need to help them identify and make sense of. When the children return to school, we will need to listen to them. Let their stories be told. They have endured a year that has no parallel in modern times. There is no assessment that applies to who they are or what they have learned," Snyder writes.

The educator also reminds us that while our children may not have been learning in the way we expected them to, they have still been doing brainwork we shouldn't discount. "Remember, their brains did not go into hibernation during this year," Snyder writes. "Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history."

What a powerful statement.

And as for her fellow educators? Snyder has advice for them as well. "Greet them with art supplies and writing materials, and music and dance and so many other avenues to help them express what has happened to them in their lives during this horrific year," she writes. "Greet them with stories and books that will help them make sense of an upside-down world. They missed you. They did not miss the test prep. They did not miss the worksheets. They did not miss the reading groups. They did not miss the homework. They missed you."

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