I dreaded looking at the online discussion forum for my town this morning. The space started as a place to share school news, and it has evolved over the last few years into a place to ask questions and to get recommendations. Feedback is almost instantaneous, and in this way, the forum epitomizes the good connections that can come from the Internet.
Increasingly, however, comments in the forum have turned sour, and quite regularly, posts publicly criticize our local government, special interest groups, individuals who take non-conformist views - and our local schools. I am very much in favor of healthy debate in public spaces, but the derogatory remarks against our schools based solely on opinion and not on facts has taken its toll on many of us who monitor the site. In fact, a friend was so dejected that she created a new forum, one where we celebrate our students, teachers, and administrators, rather than cutting them down.
Despite my growing frustration with the forum, I continue to find valuable information in it, and so I continue to read. And today I knew that I would read critique of the district's decision to delay opening. I didn't want to read the rants, yet I knew I needed to do so. I knew that I needed to respond.
I do not envy the decisions that our school leaders make on a daily basis to provide a quality education to our children. They navigate a path that is filled with political land mines as they determine the best course for both the safety and education of our children. This winter has been especially challenging as they are faced with dire weather forecasts that promise to bring dangerous conditions to our area nearly every week.
We have not had school on a Monday since January 5. My daughter has her media and tech class every other Monday, so she hasn't had formal instruction in this area since early December! I know that our school leaders want her - and all of her peers - in class. These adults do not want to stay home, sitting snuggly on the couch and watching the news (as one person on the community forum suggested). They make the best decisions that they can with the data that they have. And I support every call they have made, even when the weather forecasters have gotten it wrong, and in hindsight, we could have gone to school.
These "could have" days are frustrating for parents, especially parents who work. Over the last few weeks, my husband and I have had to strategically plan which of us could stay home if the kids had a delay or a closing. It has become a regular negotiation in our Sunday evening conversations, and yes, it is difficult. Our work is important to us. It is important to the people we serve. But ultimately, our children come first.
So in reflecting on these "could have" days, I am thankful that our local school leaders have cared enough about their employees and students to consider their safety above all else. I am also thankful that Web 2.0 has allowed me to (1) hold virtual classes and conference electronically with my students, (2) participate in virtual meetings with my colleagues, and (3) be productive at home. But more importantly, I am thankful that I had some extra time to spend with my kids and to watch their creative minds work.
We are almost to the halfway point of rearing them, and I'm trying to savor as many of these moments as I can.