Guest Columnist

A mother’s open letter to schools

By , Guest Columnist Updated: March 30, 2020 11:47 AM CT | Published: March 30, 2020 4:00 AM CT
Guest Columnist

Anne Conrad

Anne Conrad is the mother of middle- and high-school age children. She recently celebrated her 20th wedding anniversary. She is a former corporate attorney. 

Now is not the time to be obsessing over grades. Haven’t we put our kids through enough already?

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For years, we’ve asked them to study harder, learn more, be better, don’t fail. Competition has reigned as king in an environment focused on test scores, extracurriculars and athletics. And what do we have to show for it? A nation of anxiety-laden teens who are over-medicated, stressed out, and on the brink.

<strong>Anne Conrad</strong>

Anne Conrad

Now as we face a coronavirus pandemic is not the time to push them over the edge.

Mandated quarantines aren’t vacations or holidays for our children. Our kids aren’t at home living carefree lives full of frivolity and fun. Our children are at home facing grim realities: fear of contracting the virus; close quarters with elderly relatives whom we’re now responsible for; financial uncertainty for their parents; loss of personal contact with friends; uncertainty that there will ever be a future. The list is endless.

Our kids may not always be vocalizing it, but they are feeling it.

Listen to your kids while they are playing group online video games. Read their social media posts. Listen to their conversations among friends on Facetime. You’ll hear comments about a parent’s elevated stress level because of job uncertainty. Some will talk about their parents’ endless fighting these days. Others will quietly mention they are worried about the cough their grandfather has developed, or the sleepless nights they’ve experienced because they now share a room with an extended family member.

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Children are resilient. We hear that again and again. But no one can tell us the emotional impact this situation will have on our kids down the road, because no one has ever been through this before. No one.

So I encourage all our educational institutions to take a breath. To think about what you really want to teach these students right now. I know you think that by focusing on academics, you are creating normalcy. But you are not. Children need school to maintain their sense of community right now. They do not need school to revert to the usual grind of competition for grades and pressure to excel.

Kudos to the teachers who have made our children smile when you asked them about non-traditional learning topics of pets and families. To the teachers who have emphasized emotional well-being, you have shown our children that you value them, not just their work product.

I encourage schools and educators to show our children that they are loved, they are valued, and we really are all in this together.

Please put our children’s emotional health first, not just their educational health. Years from now, our children won’t remember the details of their classes or what exactly they learned in a class during this season. But they will never forget how you made them feel.

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