I’ve always been a fan of the holiday season, much like all of you I’m sure. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the things I like the most about the holidays are the traditions – decorating, spending time with neighbors and special dinners with friends and family.
I look forward to those holiday events all year long, especially now that I have two young children of my own. But I must admit that I’m still coming to terms with the fact that all those traditions that I value – that all of us value – are going to look a little different this year due to COVID-19.
This year has been a year unlike any other. Every aspect of our lives has been disrupted, from how we work and go to school to how we shop and see our friends. To say 2020 has been a strain is a tremendous understatement.
Because of that strain, celebrating the holidays this year will be more important than ever. It’s those traditions and celebrations that remind us of our ties to communities and our family. They moor us to the past while giving us hope for the future. All of those things are so important in these uncertain times.
While you are celebrating this month, I ask you to do it carefully so our public school students have a chance of returning to in-person classes in January. Remember your masks and keep practicing social distancing. I know it’s not the holidays we dreamt of, but it’s the holidays we must have for the time being to keep ourselves, our children and our families safe.
The holidays also are a time for being grateful, so I wanted to share a few of the things I’m grateful for this year.
Teachers, I want to thank you for your steadfast efforts to keep your students moving forward. Never before have we asked you to be prepared to change the way you deliver instruction so quickly and so often. Many of our districts have been able to return to in-person instruction only a few days at a time before an increase in local infection rates causes them to return to virtual instruction.
Having been a classroom teacher, I know how hard it is to keep changing your lessons and keep track of your students in such a tumultuous time. You have done both and I couldn’t be prouder to work alongside you.
And parents, thank you so much for the huge burden you’ve been asked to handle. You have helped instruct your students while many of you also have been working from home. You’ve also had to deal with the huge social-emotional burden that has been place both on you and your children. You and your students are all missing friends, family, stable schedules and certainty.
The things you’ve had to face are unfair and it’s hard and it’s OK for you to not feel OK about it all. I and my family are feeling many of the same emotions. Please remember to reach out for help when you need it, whether it’s from your child’s school counselor, from your local religious family or from a mental health provider. There is no shame for asking for help when you need it and there is great joy in helping others when you are able.
As we close out 2020, none of us know what the future holds in store for us in the next year. I hope it includes a return to a more normal life, but we don’t know when that will happen. Until then, keep your loved ones close – emotionally and in spirit, if nothing else – and I wish you and yours a happy new year.