Today’s guest columnist is Caleigh Rathmell Alevy.
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In recent weeks, I have witnessed parents in my community battle on social media as we are approaching the start of the school year. Parents who want the best for their children and will fight to make sure their children get as much of that as possible. The foreseeable future is unknown and many parents are overcome with stress while deciding if their children will return to traditional brick and mortar school or stay at home learning through virtual school.
I’ve watched parents post careless and hateful comments, challenging any parent who disagrees with their understanding and opinions of the Covid-19 pandemic. I’ve watched parents post their dissatisfaction with how the schools have handled returning to this school year. I’ve watched parents instruct other parents that their children need to stay at home and attend virtual school or perhaps they really need to enroll their children in a private school.
I have no idea if these parents are friends beyond the social media world, but I do know that I would not be asking these parents for advice when I have the supportive and dedicated public school system, teachers, and faculty where my children are enrolled. My observation is simply that parents will cut down anyone who challenges their agenda and gets in the way of children returning to school.
Many times, a parent will post something significant and important to them to a group page and it quickly escalates into arguing or bantering amongst the members. Rather than turning someone’s social media contribution into a verbal war supporting one’s own agenda, could parents be applying their thoughts and energy to supporting one another as well as the teachers and faculty who are working hard to provide a safe and welcoming space for our children?
While I did not want to get involved in the battlefield where so many are throwing in their two cents and others are rubbernecking, I wanted to convey the grief and shock I was experiencing.
I am ashamed to admit that I, too, took to social media with a passionate post. I wrote of how I struggled in my youth to embrace my community and how I feel as if I am circling right back to those feelings in the present. While I conveyed my feelings to others in similar situations, I left many of my friends and family perplexed and concerned for me.
I was not surprised to hear from parents, near and far, who are experiencing the same social media disasters. These verbal battlefields are not exclusive to my community. It is happening all over the country.
Is there a way that we could be using these platforms more effectively in a supportive way? One of the parents who contacted me shared insightful information that may help all of us do just that.
My friend, as a teacher, reached out to me because she wanted to assure me that teachers everywhere are working tirelessly in order to educate and care for their students during this pandemic. Teachers are arranging their classrooms to fit social distancing requirements, formulating their curricula for both traditional and virtual platforms further in advance than ever before, and participating in extensive training to help them identify trauma that their pupils may be experiencing during this challenging time.
The last component I find the most important. Trauma doesn’t always look like someone being physically or verbally abused. Trauma can be something as minor as a child being separated from their parents during the pandemic when all they’ve recently learned is that they are not supposed to be in contact with anyone outside of their immediate family. Something as minor
as a child requiring ear tubes due to an ear infection may not be allowed to have a parent present due to Covid-19 regulations. This can lead to a potential traumatic experience. While teachers have always received training to identify trauma so that schools can help children and their families, 2020 trauma will likely look a bit different.
Our teachers and faculty are not simply preparing to welcome our kids back to another school year and get them caught up with their academics. Our teachers and faculty are investing every waking moment and sleepless night learning how they may identify any behavioral health challenges that can be aided in order to prevent our children from experiencing long-term emotional side effects.
Educators are worried of the impact a child could have losing their teacher to Covid-19 because of returning to school. There is so much unknown in the future and while Covid-19 may not have significantly impacted many of us yet, the numbers have not decreased to the recommended amount and we are continuing to disrespect the advice of many medical professionals.
My friend highlighted that teachers are also witnessing the same social media battlefields. One can’t blame the teachers for being concerned for how this may impact their classrooms.
All mothers (and perhaps fathers) have heard the advice, “You can’t take care of others, if you aren’t taking care of yourself.” Our teachers and faculty have very little to no time to “take care of themselves” right now. They are busy preparing for students while responding to stressed parents who want and need answers, expecting their children’s attendance and academic success be the priority.
I implore parents to spend the time they usually use on social media to support teachers, faculty and each other with respect, patience, and understanding. It takes a village to raise a child and the further support we can give to those teaching our kids, the stronger we will all be coming out of these uncertain times.
Caleigh Rathmell Alevy resides in Mountain Brook with her husband, 4 children, and canine. She is a Licensed Master Social Work and a Licensed Massage Therapist.
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