Sheltered Diaries: ‘Not Looking Good’ For Return This Year

Although it will be another couple of weeks until Gov. Greg Abbott potentially decides whether school can resume on May 4 (the expiration date on his current order), Dallas ISD superintendent Michael Hinojosa said at today’s press conference that it’s not looking good for a return this year.

We’ll have more in tomorrow morning’s digest, but Hinojosa was quick to stress that this doesn’t mean we should all slack off. We’ve all heard of summer slump – where students backslide in key subjects like reading and writing during the summer months when they’re off and away from instruction.

Can you imagine what an extended summer slump following two or three weeks of homeschooling would look like?

That’s precisely what educators (and if you’re reading this, probably you, too) are trying to avoid.

But how do you navigate that dynamic between being the parent who is working and the teacher who is still the parent who is also trying to work?

I’m asking because I don’t know either.

Today was rough. Tiny wasn’t feeling like he wanted to do his lessons today. He was, as he said, “cross and out of sorts.” I was trying to cover a press conference and respond to emails and write. Dad was trying to handle several tasks for work.

It was a day where everyone needed to do their jobs, but one person didn’t want to – and was quite vocal about that.

Which leads me to an important part we’ve only given a glancing look at since I started writing these diary entries – social and emotional learning.

First and foremost, I’ve had to eschew any notion that this is anything like the happy homeschooling photos I’ve seen from my friends who homeschool. This is schooling during a crisis while working during a crisis. It’s not the same at all, so I need to grant myself (and my family) the grace to realize some days it’s just not going to work.

And that’s OK.

But I’ve also had to talk a lot in our family about making sure we’re open with each other about what we’re feeling – even a big house can feel small after weeks of social distancing at home, and as those walls close in on us, it’s not the time to let things fester.

So we use what the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence calls the RULER approach, designed to not only help us recognize our own emotions, but also others – as well as the consequences of them.

The acronym stands for:

  • Recognizing emotions in self and others,
  • Understanding the causes and consequences of emotions,
  • Labeling emotions accurately,
  • Expressing emotions appropriately, and
  • Regulating emotions effectively.

Tiny’s school has a huddle time each morning, peer-led, where they talk about what is bothering them, what they’re proud of, what worked yesterday, and what didn’t. They listen to each other, help troubleshoot if asked, or just offer empathetic responses or support.

So we try to do something similar. Each evening, we talk about how our days went (even though we’ve all been in the same room working), what worked for us, what didn’t, and how we all are feeling. It’s an opportunity to express worries, to ask for help, or just to even admit that you screwed up.

This post from Panorama Education was helpful because it’s full of links about how to help kids focus, how to improve time management, and more toolkits for social and emotional learning than you can shake a stick at. Dallas ISD has also provided some great resources and tips, too.

But if your family is having a very tough time of it, and you feel your child might benefit from talking to someone else, most districts have gathered their counselors as a resource as well – so reach out to your child’s teacher for help, too, so they can help you get the resources your family needs. If your child attends a Dallas ISD school, finding a counselor to talk to is as easy as heading here.

How is your family doing? Any concerns? Show us your distance learning set ups by tagging us on Instagram, or by sharing on our Preston Hollow or Park Cities Facebook pages.

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Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson, Digital Editor at People Newspapers, cut her teeth on community journalism, starting in Arkansas. Recently, she's taken home a few awards for her writing, including first place for her tornado coverage from the National Newspapers Association's 2020 Better Newspaper Contest, a Gold award for Best Series at the 2018 National Association of Real Estate Editors journalism awards, a 2018 Hugh Aynesworth Award for Editorial Opinion from the Dallas Press Club, and a 2019 award from NAREE for a piece linking Medicaid expansion with housing insecurity. She is a member of the Education Writers Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Association of Real Estate Editors, the News Leaders Association, the News Product Alliance, and the Online News Association. She doesn't like lima beans, black licorice or the word synergy. You can reach her at [email protected].

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