There are moments when an Instagram post succinctly summarizes all the noise that’s been invading my mind.
My local school district announced its plan for the start of the school year. Prior to the announcement, I did not pay much attention to the scuttlebutt around what might happen. I don’t know that I even filled out the survey they asked families to fill out. It seemed most logical to stick my head in the sand and assume summer would last forever and not think about what was to come. Beyond wearing a mask, washing my hands, and otherwise following the rules; there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to influence what was going to happen anyway.
The condensed version of the plan is students can opt for a hybrid model of instruction, where they attend school in person two days a week; or select receiving 100% of their instruction online. In a situation where there simply is no good option, I feel these are the best options the district could have possibly come up with. Still, my heart is quite heavy today; mostly with the unknowns. But also with the knowns.
Kids are going to go to school when they shouldn’t, when they don’t feel well. This will not be a new, COVID induced phenomenon. Perfect attendance is historically viewed as a virtue. My high school students tend to avoid missing school at any cost, because it’s so easy to fall behind. And, let’s face it, parents need to go to work because paid time off is at a premium; and very few parents have enough of it. There was a lot about the old normal that wasn’t good. Perhaps a silver lining is that, at least older students will feel they can stay home and opt for online instruction if they are feeling ill on a day they’re supposed to report to the building. But, who really knows? None of us know what this is going to look like.
My son is set to enter his senior year. The college selection and admission process is undoubtedly going to be a complete cluster. We are fortunate he sat for the ACT once before all this started, but had every intention of him taking it again in hopes of a higher score and, ideally, more financial aid. Many of his classmates hadn’t gotten around to taking it. Powers that be are saying we all need to let the ACT go, that colleges are not going to require it, but if anyone thinks this will alleviate stress surrounding college choices for students, they obviously haven’t been living in the same universe I have for the past decade. Granted, it could be a function of where I live (though based on recent standardized testing scandals, I don’t think Edina is all that unique), but test scores are life. Getting into a prestigious school is the goal. Achieve, achieve, achieve at any cost– go to school when you’re sick, cheat, schedule 722 extracurricular activities and volunteer projects so you’ll look good on paper, do whatever it takes to achieve AMERICAN SUCCESS. There was a lot about the old normal that wasn’t good. These attitudes are deeply entrenched. Having a guidance counselor say, “meh, you’ll be fine without an ACT score” is NOT going to undo years of societal conditioning. It just isn’t.
So, yes, there was a lot about the old normal that wasn’t good. There’s a lot about the new normal that’s not good. There are lessons we could take from this as we move forward. If we ever move forward. Are we ever going to move forward? Feeling lots of feelings today. I have no answers, just feelings.