By now, most of us are settled into the 2020-2021 school year. Some of you are in face-to-face learning environments, some are in virtual, and some are in a hybrid environment. All of these environments are fraught with challenges, and with, no doubt, some fears. Over the past months, I have had the opportunity to think about the best way to support our families, our educators, and especially our children during these uncertain times.
In following social media, reading countless articles such as this one:
This is Our Season of Coaching Our Children Through Disappointment in the Washington Post, and speaking with many parents and educators, it has become increasingly clear to me that attitude matters. Attitude matters for our own mental health, and attitude matters for the mental health of our children -- because they are watching us. Attitude coupled with modeling problem solving skills, decision making skills, creative and critical thinking skills, and fortitude will help us make the best of these unusual times, and show our children how to press through adversity.
As this school year approached, I saw many fabulous examples of families with great attitudes. They chose to roll with the uncertainty, and think of ways to make the best of it. They planned for various scenarios, and encouraged their children to join in on the plans. I read about families creating quiet study spaces, checking home bandwidth, going “pretend” school-supply shopping in their basements, and picking out “first day of school” outfits, even though their children were starting the school year virtually. I saw families of means choosing to purchase their own chromebooks, allowing scarce school resources to be spent on families in need. I saw families discussing the importance of following school policies regarding masks and social distancing to prepare their children for a face-to-face beginning of the year. I watched them practice routines, and heard of patient and calm family conversations to allay fears. I heard of families having meetings to discuss how all community children would be able to access learning, and what plans communities would be making to accommodate everyone. Most of all, families were talking about the importance of flexibility should things change, as inevitably they would. And in these families, I saw resilience and resolve, and willingness to make the best of things. I saw that attitude matters.
Similarly, I saw educators, as they usually do, working tirelessly to “make it work” in a myriad of situations. Many spent countless hours working during the summer to perfect plans for a yet to be determined scenario; many watched in anguish as school boards struggled with making difficult decisions. Many experienced plans upended as circumstances changed in communities. Many worked through fears about online learning, or F2F learning, or juggling the increased demands of hybrid learning. Many worried about kids in unsafe situations, or kids who might not be able to access quality education. Many of them struggled with fears about health and safety. And many of them dug into deep reserves of creativity and persistence to triumph.
In a marvelous example of true educator awesome-ness and ingenuity, I watched incredulously as a well-known internet service provider chose to do a full-on upgrade on “third-Friday-count-day” in September, shutting down all virtual learning services in parts of southeastern Wisconsin. What did teachers and families do? They reimagined it as a “virtual snow day,” and proceeded with alternate plans on the spot. They rose above their frustration, put their creative talents to use, and carried on. Attitude matters!
Attitude matters, too, in how we support all of us making difficult decisions daily. Attitudes of gratitude must be shared with school boards and administrators. Though we may not always agree with their decisions, we must be cognizant of the difficulty of their jobs, and the great weight of responsibility that rests on their shoulders. We must have an attitude of gratitude for our educators who are relentlessly putting kids above their personal fears and their fatigue. We need to thank them privately, publicly, and often.
Finally, we must be kind to each other, and to ourselves. Families have made difficult decisions about how to school their children, based on their unique family values and circumstances. We must extend grace and kindness to all -- because attitude matters. We must extend grace and forgiveness to ourselves, too, because we are doing our best. Our children are watching and learning from us. How we handle adversity will influence how they handle adversity. Gifted kids in particular often have built-in intuition -- a kind of radar -- that causes them to finely examine and thoughtfully question adults. Now is the time to choose our best attitudes for them to examine and question! Attitude matters!
Gifted in Perspective
A column designed to link the gifted perspective to other perspectives, and to make you think.