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My Thoughts on Returning to Face to Face Education

 I have been going back and forth with how I was going to write about heading back to work tomorrow. I thought about a long, rambling Facebook post...but then I realized most people are like me and lose interest by the time you have to click "read more." Then I though about maybe just writing a private journal entry....which I have been doing on and off for the past month. I decided to take a lot of those thoughts from my journal and write this entry to summarize my thoughts about returning to work for in person education on Tuesday 9/8/2020. 

Before I begin with my thoughts I think it is important to explain my personal feelings on the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. First, I am honestly disgusted that the issue became political and citizens starting picking "sides" from day one. I tend to take the word of scientists and medical professionals over politicians or random Facebook posts from "experts" on my friends list when making decisions in my own life. If it were Governor Snyder giving the same directives to the state of Michigan I would have followed them, even if I did not always agree with his politics. If you look to Ohio, Republican Governor Mike DeWine ordered many of the same directives to help keep Ohio safe. 

I guess the easiest way to explain how I personally feel is to create a scale, where a 1 ranking is equivalent to living life exactly like I was pre-Covid and a 10 ranking would be having Joe from You build me a glass box for me to move into.

Joe's Box
No, I did not lock myself into one of Joe's glass boxes.......yet

So where do I fall on the scale? Honestly a solid 5...maybe a 4.5 on good days. This summer I attended a few outdoor graduation parties. I have been coaching my cross country team most of the summer and we have now started competitions. I have cut back on eating out in restaurants (but have not cut back on carry-out, trust me). I wear a mask with no issues wherever I go, and I feel safe and comfortable. I guess I see myself as an average person that is doing his best to keep myself and others safe.

So, how do I feel about face-to-face education and returning to work? Well, first let me give praise to my local district (Gibraltar School District) and many of the employees that gave up a great deal of their summer to help develop a back to school plan and organize the buildings to start face-to-face education on Tuesday. I can tell you there was not a lot of "summer off" for many in our district. The plan provided families with the choice of full virtual or face-to-face education four days a week. As both an employee and parent in the district I found this to be a perfect solution for the community we serve. If a family is a 9 - 10 on my scale, their children can attend our virtual school with the option to return to face-to-face later in the year or next school year. If a family is lower on my "scale" they can send their children in for face-to-face learning four days a week.

I feel like our district has to, at the very least, try to teach face-to-face to start the school year. It is our responsibility as a public school district to serve the public and at the very least make an effort to meet in person. If we try, and it does not go well, at least we attempted to provide face-to-face learning to our students. I honestly think that if families, students, and staff work together we can make it work in Gibraltar in the age of COVID.

To me, one of the most important reasons for starting back for face-to-face learning is the mental health aspect for all involved. Pre-COVID, my family was quite busy with activities and events, and within a few days we went from running all over town daily to doing next to nothing. At first it was nice to decompress and rest a little; but as the weeks turned to months it became difficult on everyone. I am sure this was the same in most households. When I started working school events in late summer (cross country practices and our first in-person student council meeting, all done with masks) the joy and happiness I saw on the faces of my students (and my own children taking part in activities) can not be overstated. Our kids need this, to be honest I need this. I can not imagine another six months to a year of limited to zero social interaction. If we can safely give our children a place to learn and interact, we are doing our jobs. 

CHS Student Council Meeting
This is what a Student Council meeting looks like in 2020!

Again, you may not agree with me and that is fine. I respect anyone that does not feel it is safe to send their children into a school at this time. It was not an easy decision in my household. I just ask that others understand why so many have worked so hard to try and make face-to-face learning work and not to immediately start speaking badly of the decision to return to in person education. This brings me to another general this country would be a much better place if we just took some time to understand where people from "the other-side" are coming from on a number of issues. Too often, we run to our corners to defend "our side" without even giving a few minutes of thought to what others may feel or experience in their own lives. This does not mean one has to agree 100% with the other side or change their opinions, they simply need to understand why others may feel as they do. If we can change this type of behavior in the country, America can truly move forward on a path to greatness. To all students, parents, and education staff throughout the country, I hope you all have a safe, enjoyable school year. Be safe everyone!


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