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  • Writer's pictureCarolee Jackson

We are the Heroes!

The '20-21 school year has finally drawn to a close, and as I have been reflecting on the experience of this last year, I am struck by how surreal it still feels. How did this time pass? How did we get here? It's still like something out of a dream. However, what has most assuredly felt real this year is the struggle: the constant change, managing the anxiety of the unknown, and dipping into the physical and emotional fatigue of dealing with it all. There are countless professionals, groups, and individuals who deserve praise and gratitude for their efforts during this life-changing year, but there are three groups in particular who haven't received the recognition they truly deserve. Teachers, parents, and kids have weathered a never-ending storm, have finally reached the shores of summer break, and deserve a long, hard-earned rest!

Teachers are the Heroes! Teachers - including support staff, paraprofessionals, administrators, district staff, and anyone else who keeps schools functioning - have dealt with a significant amount of change this year while continuing to put on a brave face (even if hidden by a mask!) and ensuring that our schools continue to be safe spaces for our most precious and vulnerable little people. As I've collaborated with teachers and school staff this year in my work advocating for clients, I have been so impressed. Teachers have risen above the noise to artfully reach their students through masks, screens, quarantines, and countless barriers. Primary teachers taught some of our youngest kids how to read and write virtually, while trying to maintain their focus, encourage appropriate social interactions, and keep the camera on! Secondary teachers coached students through AP exam prep, virtual Socratic Seminars, and college essays, all while trying to also maintain their focus, encourage appropriate social interactions, and keep the camera on! In-person teachers figured out how to keep little people who can't keep their hands out of their noses and off each other safe during a time when germs are the absolute enemy. They managed the constant drag of masks and social-distancing for older students as well - everyone knows teenage girls can only communicate in small circles with their heads five inches apart! Our kids' teachers have been resilient and creative, continuing to put the needs of their students above all else. For this unwavering focus, confidence, and fortitude, they deserve our deepest thanks (and paid vacations to a beach far away!).

Parents are the Heroes! Parents - including grandparents, family friends, and everyone else in a child's "village" who jumped in to provide childcare and support - have weathered a constant influx of information, systems, links, rules, technology, and the occasional meltdown in order to make their children's learning a priority, even through a pandemic. Parents were the master-jugglers of the year, managing work schedules, home learning, hybrid learning, in-person learning, sometimes all in a single week! Parents made huge sacrifices in order to keep their children safe, fed, and sheltered, while also fostering their learning, interests, and mental health. In my home, where my children did online learning all year, sometimes, one day seemed to bleed into another: an endless parade of google meets, technology issues, squabbles over wearing headphones, and mac'n cheese lunches. But there were moments when the silver linings shone in unabashed, splendid glory too: spontaneous dance parties, family lunches on the back deck, walks in the afternoons, and our kids' "Nailed It!"-styled cooking and baking challenges. Through it all, parents put on a show of unwavering calm and consistency, even though new and constant struggles bubbled just under the surface. To their kids, they are heroes every day. For this, parents deserve serious recognition (and paid vacations to a beach - far away from the teachers!).

Kids are the Heroes! Kids of all ages were plunged into the deep end at the start of the

pandemic with their parents and teachers - who were treading water as well - as their

only flotation devices. Throughout this past year, our kids have had to adapt to endlessly new and frustrating technology, expectations, routines, and rules. Masks, temperature checks, constant hand-washing inundated the halls of learning, but our kids were resilient (most days) and found ways to adapt and have fun despite it all. Our kids have found new ways to have their voices heard, recording videos, creating art, showing off skills and talents they normally wouldn't share at school. Despite untold stresses and challenges facing our kids, many have found creative outlets and new ways of expressing themselves. Many are talking about their mental health, many are communicating with trusted adults and peers through forums that otherwise wouldn't have been available to them. Despite all of the obstacles, our kids have figured out how to do what they do best: create joy! For this, they are the true heroes of this year and definitely deserve a beach vacation (away from the teachers and parents - Lord knows the adults need a break!).

Through adversity, political and social unrest, constant anxieties and stress, we have all found ways to make it work. The end of this school year came upon me very suddenly and I realized, at least to some extent, I'd been holding my breath since August. With the last day of school today, I'm finally letting out a deep, long exhale, breathing out the pent up stress of the year, breathing in the sunshine and possibilities that the future holds, and extending my deepest gratitude to my kids, their teachers, and our village who helped us manage the year. We are all the heroes! Now, as I remove my cape…where is the nearest beach?

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