Reframing the Question
Rabbi’s Message – August 11, 2020
The question isn’t “How can they learn the V’ahavta virtually in third grade?” instead it’s “How can religious school be a source of constant love for third graders when the world is upside down?” -(Posted 8/2/2020, @RogueShul)
I remember a commercial for an office supply store where a parent is wheeling down the back-to-school aisles singing “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” while piling school supplies into the cart and happily sharing lyrics about the children going back to school. I thought it was funny as a kid. Now as an adult, I can see how parents might have had a different perspective than the nine-year-old me. But this year, instead of frivolous commercials and excitement over back-to-school sales, I’m seeing advice on the best masks for little ones and the best footwear to avoid shoelace tying. I’m seeing social media posts about how unsafe in-person learning will be and also how ineffective and challenging virtual learning will be. Through all of this, teachers are scrambling to put together lesson plans for all the different scenarios of learning. There’s little actual excitement about the return to school. Right now, I doubt any parent, teacher, or sane adult is that gleeful parent from the commercial.
But here’s the catch. As adults, we have to be excited… or at least pretend to be, especially with younger children. For them, how the adults in our community frame this school year, will make all the difference in the world. It’s the difference between, “How will I make sure my child/student is wearing their mask?” versus “How can I make them feel great about utilizing a face covering?” and “How will they learn this year’s curriculum?” versus “What are some new ways to engage with this content at home?”
For those with school-age children or not – our attitudes and behaviors towards school will make a big difference for ourselves and those around us. It won’t negate that elements of living through this pandemic are less than ideal or even borderline impossible, but it can shape the way we view the next several months. “Fake it ’til you make it” is an old adage that applies today.
Turning a Jewish lens on this time of year, we are given the gift of the month of Elul for reflection leading up to the High Holidays. I invite you to take some time throughout this week and into the next month to consider what it is that we are bringing from the past year, and how we are framing it, into the coming year; and to pay attention to how you approach the questions and situations posed before you. Let’s do our best to make it feel as wonderful as possible, even if it seems like everything is upside down.