Students Need “Hope and Joy” Message

It goes without saying that all of us have been negatively impacted by the Covid virus and the media and political firestorm that has ignited as a result of the virus.

Some of us have lost jobs or have had businesses shut down, some of us are isolated and unable to connect with others, some of us have heightened anxiety based on what we have seen on the news, and others of us are simply exhausted and tired of the conflicting data and contradictions.  As adults, we understand that life can be difficult, and we are gifted with various coping mechanisms that allow us to endure and persevere.  We can disconnect ourselves from the news and social media, and we have lived long enough to realize that this too shall pass with time.

Our students, on the other hand, have a more limited perspective and fewer coping skills.  They have been inundated over the past five months with fear-mongering on social media, cancelations of school and sports, confusing and contradictory mandates from all sorts of adults, and anxiety within their own homes.  If we as adults feel as though we have lost some control of our lives through this hysteria, we need to take a moment and step into the shoes of our students to realize how dizzying daily life has become.

With our youngest child going into grade 8, we do not have ‘littles’ in our home anymore.  But my heart goes out to the kindergarten or first grade student who may struggle with the first day of school because it is a big step in a little person’s life.  If we add anxiety and fear related to the Covid virus to this process, some students will be overwhelmed and shut down.

As the new school year approaches, parents, school teachers / administrators and politicians need to be cognitive of the mental and emotional well-being of our students, while at the same time keeping them physically safe.

Most of the local school districts have announced their re-opening plans, and all of those plans include the widest possible array of safety measures.  These measures are important and necessary, but how parents, teachers / school officials, and politicians present these ‘changes’ to the students will make all the difference in whether or not our students make a healthy transition to the new reality.

This messaging certainly begins at home.  In spite of the anxiety or pressures we as parents may be dealing with during this frustrating time, we must shield our students to the extent that we are able.  As every living human on the planet is now intimately familiar with the Covid virus, less information may be better than more information moving forward.  As all students in Wisconsin will be required to wear a mask for the first month of school, try to make it a fun, new experience for your younger students.  Spend the extra money on a personalized mask, or wear masks around the house while playing together.  Let your student know that there is no danger to them if they do contract the virus, but they are wearing the mask to keep older adults like grandma and grandpa safe.  If you are upset that your student is required to wear a mask, do not share that with your child as at this point, Governor Evers’ mandate requires it.

We have noticed on many school district press releases that much discussion will be had with students reviewing the daily safety requirements and impressing upon them the importance of following the new guidelines.  As most students need to hear new information a number of times before it sinks in, this strategy definitely makes sense.  However, the tone with which this message is shared with the students can assist our students to thrive in spite of the chaos, or, on the other hand, can heighten anxiety and cause them to recoil further within themselves.  Apocalyptic death sermons are not an appropriate strategy to cajole students into following the new directives.  Smiling faces (behind the masks), positive reinforcement, and a ‘let’s work together to keep everyone safe’ attitude will keep our students safe physically and healthy emotionally and mentally.

At this point in the lifecycle of the virus drama, our students need joyful hearts and hope that life will get back to normal sooner than later.  We as adults need that as well.

Getting Our Kids Back in School

Over the past 30 plus years, elementary and high schools have evolved into community service organizations that go well beyond academics.  Most neighborhood schools are providing free or reduced-cost meals to students who come from financially disadvantaged families.

As mental health issues are on the rise among our young people, many of our schools have medical professionals on staff and have trained the teaching staff to look for signs of mental distress and then to provide assistance to the identified students and their families.  Most teachers and administrators are also mandatory reporters – always on the lookout for students showing signs of abuse or neglect – and again connecting the student to organizations in the community who work to rectify the situation and keep the student safe.  In addition, students with every type of physical or cognitive challenge are provided academic and social training within the traditional classroom, many of them receiving individualized instruction and support.

There is certainly an argument to be made that the teachers and administrators of our elementary schools and high schools are overwhelmed and spread too thin given the diversity of the services they are required to provide and the immense challenges that accompany many of those offerings.  Perhaps a discussion should be had regarding what other organizations should take on some of these responsibilities from the school systems, which in turn would allow the educators to focus more of their energies on academic and social development.

The reality of today, however, is that our communities and particularly our young people depend on the professionals in our schools to provide all of these services and protections.

The home lives of a significant number of students in our local, state, and national communities are less than ideal in some cases and dangerous and toxic in others.  Escaping that reality to the safety and security of the classroom is a welcome and critical reprieve for many students.  The personal interaction with adults who care about them and who have their best interest in mind is critical to providing a foundation upon which the student can build a stable and prosperous future and escape the cycle of poverty or chemical dependence or abuse.  Although school discipline and behavioral expectations have taken a turn since I was in school, there is still a clear set of right and wrong within the school setting as well as an understanding of the respect and reverence owed to others; this is an understanding that some of these students will not learn at home.

It must also be acknowledged that even the best version of on-line learning has been and will continue to be an abject failure without the full support and engagement of parents in the process.

Effective learning at the elementary, middle school, and high school levels requires in-person, face-to-face learning or a homeschooling parent that is fully engaged in and capable of navigating the digital learning experience.  Many parents simply do not have the time, ability, or in some cases, interest in providing this support.

Some powerful individuals throughout the country are advocating that we not return to school or that we do so within mandates that drain the efficacies from all of the school-provided services (including the academic training that the schools are primarily charged to provide).  Some districts are proposing half-time digital and half-time in-school learning; this split-the-baby solution will ensure very limited learning along with scheduling chaos, both for the school systems and the parents who in many cases need to work outside the home every day of the week.

The truth of the matter is that the Covid-19 virus will not be gone within the next 12 months.  If/when a vaccine is developed, polling has shown that upwards of 25+% of the United States population is not willing to be injected.  And what if a new strain of ‘serious flu’ should break out in the future, which it surely will.  Is reverting to these half-measures the wave of the future?  If it is, we must all seriously reconsider how education is administered in the country and how we can transform it to better serve our students moving forward.

Covid-19 is a serious threat to some individuals, and teachers, administrators, and staff that are high risk may need the option of a temporary furlough or layoff until their health situation improves.  Students who are immuno-compromised will need an alternative to the traditional school setting.  Thorough and regular disinfecting of surfaces should be implemented as the new normal in school buildings.  Parents do need to keep students home who are showing signs of sickness, and schools need to send students home if they arrive at school displaying those symptoms.  Masks could be part of the solution as well.

There is no perfect solution to the threat of contagious illnesses.  Teachers, staff, and administrators will be taking a bit of a health risk as they have been for decades.

Like health care, grocery store, service industry, and manufacturing workers, teachers will need to take their rightful place among the ‘Heroes’.

There is too much at stake if they don’t.

Individualized Tutoring For Your Individual Student

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When parents are searching for a tutor for their student, scrolling through random profiles of anonymous tutors on a national marketing website can be a very frustrating and uncomfortable process. At Life Tools Tutoring, we take the guess-work out of it. By taking the time to learn about the specific needs of your student, we can then match those needs with the gifts and talents of the appropriate tutor from our experienced team of tutors.

As one satisfied parent shared:
“[Life Tools Tutoring] knows the strengths of their staff and work hard to place a student with the best fit for the student’s learning style.”

Beyond providing subject-matter expertise, our tutors will also integrate specific life skills training, including organization, study skills, focus, accountability and independence, into the tutoring sessions. We will match your student with the perfect tutor, and we will walk with you throughout the tutoring process.

Our goals are your goals…Strong Kids.  Proud Parents.