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Challenge: Back to School 2020

Dear teachers: This is the greatest lesson plan of our lives

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Dear Teachers,

Let me start by saying this: You are the most important part of our village. You are the only reason I can breathe and begin again as a mother. Because for a few hours each day, you take my children as your own. You raise them as much as I do. Your role has always been appreciated, but underrecognized. Now, it’s getting attention for reasons none of us saw coming.

Some big decisions are being made about the beginning of the school year and it may be causing more than first-day jitters. There’s a ton of uncertainty and unknown, which feels hard and unfair because it is. It’s impossible to make lesson plans when there’s no current plan for our country.

But I’d like to encourage you now in the way you’ve always encouraged us.

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Each school year, you transfer a classroom of strangers into your beloved students. You take the unknown and make them known by name and need. You learn their likes and dislikes; which child excels at math and which needs the extra love that’s lacking in their own home.

You teach academics, sure, but also more vital skills like inclusion and kindness. You are the only constant some of these children will ever know. You have direct influence on who these precious humans will become.

It’s a big job, but every year—pandemic or not—you walk in without fear.

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There’s some imminent health and safety hurdles we’ll need to cross, but as we restart school, please remember this:

You are a professional at the unknown. You are a master at making plans—then throwing those plans out the window when life intervenes. You have spent your entire career course-correcting for children. Ebbing and flowing and always delivering exactly what they need. This will simply (and complicatedly) be another year of just that. You will show up as you always do, and this time, so will we.

On behalf of parents, I want you to know I’m on your side. That as much as you’ve given to my child, I’m prepared to give back. I have two children with autism, one who just had her very first year of education, Kindergarten, abruptly stopped. And yet, you, my dear teachers, continued to show up for her. You did drive-by parades and Zoom calls. You dropped off beloved stuffed animals, the same ones she favored from your classroom. You invested in a child, instead of just teaching curriculum, and that is not lost on me.

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So this year, I want to return the favor. I want to be your cheerleader and protector. If classroom rules change, I will too. If school abruptly stops mid-year, I promise not to place blame. We are in this together. One collective unit with the same goal: to raise a kind, resilient child.

And do you know what teaches resilience more than anything? The unknown.

We can all learn this year together.

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