Sunday, December 13, 2020



Today, in things that absolutely make no sense: the people who demand that their children return to school buildings because distance learning is destroying their mental health also declare that social-emotional lessons in the school curriculum are a complete waste of time and encourage their children to turn them off and refuse to participate.

Are you @#$&-ing kidding me???

The integration of social emotional learning into our overall learning plan is a vital part of supporting children's mental health needs right now. And it isn’t simply the content itself. It’s the process. The connection. The community building. It’s caring teachers being open to a variety of ideas and responses. If you say you are intensely interested in supporting your child’s mental health needs during the pandemic and you laugh this off as a load of crap let me tell you something. 

You don’t care about our kids’ mental health. You’re just mad you are not getting your own way.

I cannot begin to adequately describe the revulsion I feel toward the ugliness of parents who trot out wildly varying suicide numbers on social media in order to win arguments. Suicide is a tragedy. What causes it is deeply complicated and the underlying issues are varied and interconnected. We have always had children dying by suicide in our school communities and sadly, we do now. It is not a new thing, and it most certainly does not exist to be a talking point for making political points in a pandemic.

Whenever a child dies by suicide they are an individual, human, precious being to be mourned. They are not your ReOpen Howard talking point. Please sit down.

Social emotional learning is not a cure-all but it is an extremely valuable tool. We choose to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 as a part of a comprehensive public health plan, for example, but it is not the whole plan. Supporting the social emotional component of the school curriculum with your children is a part of a larger set of goals to help them thrive as much as is humanly possible right now. 

There are all kinds of individual choices families may be making as well: making sure there’s adequate outdoor play, hosting Zoom activities with their child’s friends, engaging in community service projects with them, establishing regular one-one-one time to debrief. I’m sure families are working with school counselors and with mental health care providers. It’s hard. 

No one is saying it isn’t hard.

Saying that returning to school buildings is THE ONLY way to support students’ mental health needs and spurning all other methods of support is exactly the same as saying that applying a name brand bandage is the only way to treat a wound and that, without one, the alternative is no treatment whatsoever. Just let ‘em bleed to death.

If you, as a parent, don’t understand social emotional learning, that’s okay. Educate yourself. Don’t just assume that because you perhaps “didn’t do it in school” that it has no value. It’s amazing how many valuable things have been learned since I was in school. I’d be appalled if that were the standard for exclusion. If you truly care about improving children’s quality of life during the pandemic, look in the mirror. Are you helping or hurting? Are you a part of the solution or the problem?

I’d like to close in sharing with you a beautiful example of a Howard County teacher who is helping. 

Fourth grade faces fill my screen, like virtual stained-glass windows

 Dottie Rosenberry, teacher, Deep Run Elementary School, writes of her students:

And like a stained-glass window, each digital frame possesses a pattern that must be viewed from just the right angle to fully grasp its magnificence. But teachers are perspective seekers — we naturally search for the specks of beauty in each student. When their lights shine, our collective class sparkles. Even in a virtual world.

Ms. Rosenberry, like teachers all over the county, are making themselves a part of the solution. What we as parents can do is, at the very least, not choose to be a part of the problem.

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