Parents Forum Newsletter | August 19, 2021 Cambridge MA, USA
Andi Edson         Andrea Edson, Director of Lesley University’s                                                        New Teacher Community and Parents Forum Board Member
It’s the second year of beginning our back-to-school edition with the words, “This is a year like no other!” 
Parents, during the past year your brave children faced everything that we hope to help them avoid: interruptions, inconsistency, unpredictability, fear and loneliness.  Yet they have shown us how strong and resilient they are --learning to do what would have been inconceivable just months before and rising to be focused, organized, good learners and friends, even if they didn’t learn quite as much as they might have in a normal year.
In the best of times, our children come home from school and tell you that they “did nothing!”  But we know that this year they’ve learned new skills and displayed them amazingly well. They have acquired independence, courage, follow-through, resourcefulness and, of course, initiative and focus when there were so many distractions.  They’ve shined.  And so have you.
All this would not have happened without support and guidance given to children and teachers from parents, grandparents and family members. All of us outside the schoolroom had to quickly learn the vocabulary of education, create cubbyholes for studying and learning and pile on teaching responsibilities after, or during, our own scattered workdays. 
May you approach this school year with wonder for all that your children can be and do, with respect for what educators do for your children and with the knowledge that the partnerships you form with educators and other parents make all the difference.  As you look forward to having your children in school, even with the horrid specter of the Delta variant bearing down, maintain joy in your homes, read, read, read, play, sing, and spend time really being together. 
Look up from those cell phones and listen to your kids! Help them with your good attention but also with rules and routines. Try to be as consistent as possible, so that when the unexpected happens, children can roll with the punches because they know that routines will return.

One more thing: Remember to thank those teachers and educators who have always been devoted to reaching children where they are, creating relationships and moving forward with the curriculum. They have also taken this time of unpredictability and inconsistency and made magic: they have been creative in teaching our children in meaningful and joyful ways, without materials, from locations as wild as their bathrooms and closets, and in many instances with their own children trying to learn from their perches in the background.
Teachers have done all this while incorporating new curriculum and school system mandates.  Some of the teachers who taught your children during the pandemic had never been in charge in a LIVE classroom! While plenty of high school students’ initial thoughts of playing Xbox all day morphed into challenging school days online, for the most part, students, teachers and parents reached an amazing balance.

Gains and losses? All of us recognize that the main losses this past year were in our relationships, quickly followed by children’s learning. Maybe students didn’t finish the textbook last year, but the upcoming one is fresh and filled with potential. Educators know what they need to do to help their students move forward. Really, standards are artificial benchmarks but learning is endless. If we can embrace the idea that students are resilient, they will catch up if they are at school, no matter what format that takes. This year will undoubtedly be a year of great growth and insight, as students truly value what they missed: the physical presence of teachers and precious classmates and the stimulation of new ideas and concepts.
What was gained? Hopefully an appreciation for the other, parents for teachers and students, teachers for parents and students and students for their parents and their schools.
Students navigated this past year’s challenges with strength and vigor, showing parts of themselves in their virtual classrooms that would never otherwise have been evident — shy children finding their voices in a ZOOM breakout room, an artistic child creating projects to show off learning because the class size was small and, yes, the noisy child learning to be patient for fear of being muted.
Parents learned how necessary their partnerships with educators are and how these bridges bring respect. Parents came to new understandings (sometimes surprises and sometimes with a reality check) about their own children’s strengths and challenges.
Finally, teachers learned about technology overnight and showed flexibility, devotion and wisdom while being more concerned about children’s social and emotional well-being than whether they mastered certain facts.
Let’s keep the joy of learning alive as we move into this new year like no other.  Parents, look with wonder at your amazing children who have met challenges and reached new heights in so many ways this past year. They are ready to go back to school, filled with promise and amazement. They need and want your support, guidance and cheering, and, as parents, we need each other.
Be safe out there…

Notes from the Editor . . . 

A year ago we launched Voices of Parents Forum in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is all too easy to forget how bleak the days of lockdown were, especially for those of us whom the distress and disruption have left relatively untouched. My heart goes out to all those who lost loved ones. dear friends and colleagues to the disease.
There is good news too, though: Parents Forum had great success in the fall of 2020 with USA Today’s A Community Thrives challenge. We raised over $6000 and were awarded a $7500 grant from Gannett Foundation, monies we are now putting to work on planning our next steps with Empower Success Corps consultants guiding us. One urgent need is an experienced board chair. If you are --or someone you know may be-- interested in what this role would involve, please be in touch!
Let us hear your voice in the conversation! Please tell us what Parents Forum has meant for you and how we can best help you and your community. We welcome two new prospective partners this coming year: The Confess Project, based in Arkansas, and SARP, a consulting group in North Africa, which will bring our program to Algerian parents. And we recently joined the Listen First Coalition… what a great name, a reminder that we should all take time to listen first.
Eve Sullivan
Founder, Parents Forum 
Cambridge, MA USA 

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This newsletter was edited by Eve Sullivan, Cambridge MA USA,
and produced by Akmaljon ‘Jon’ Akhmedjonov, Istanbul, Turkey.
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