By Sam Miller, Chief Administrator, Cedar Rivers AEA

To all the students, parents, and educators we serve, welcome back! Having students “back” in school (whether virtually or in person) provides some of the normalcy and structure we all need right now. The teachers and school administrators I talk with have truly missed having kids in their buildings and are working hard to do everything they can to keep students safe and engaged in learning.

Let’s agree that it’s going to be a “heavy lift” for students and schools to succeed this fall. Most of us know that the odds are stacked against them with a pandemic still in full swing. The level of support our schools need from us now is different – it’s deeper and more immediate. Personally, I think we are up to the challenge. Whether it’s a pandemic or a derecho, Iowans always show up for each other when it matters.
So in the spirit of “showing up” for your child’s school this fall, here are some ideas to consider:

Idea #1: This year will be an armchair quarterback’s dream. If you are someone who enjoys a good critique, there will be lots of opportunities to have your say. What if we all backed away from social media and talked directly with each other when we have concerns about how the school year is going? Our students are watching and learning how to handle conflict directly from us as the adults. If we can do it in healthy ways, they will, too. And in the process they will gain life skills that they need to be successful in their professional and personal lives.

Idea #2: How about if we put our political differences aside when it comes to topics like face mask use and sports? What makes our country great is the freedom to choose what we believe and advocate for it. While I’m not suggesting that anyone abandon their beliefs, I am suggesting that all of us take a breath and consider our tone and words in the presence of our kids when discussing them. Things have gotten pretty heated in our country these days – and some would argue rightly so. But let’s consider whether we are advocating from anger or purpose. Anger seeks division. Purpose seeks win-win solutions. Let’s show kids the best of us.

Idea #3: Take time for yourself. Parents of school-aged children haven’t received the credit they deserve for juggling work, childcare, constant schedule disruptions, and the economic challenges brought on by the pandemic. You are entitled to some rest and time to regroup and recharge! Doing so will help you be a better parent and partner to your child’s school because you’ll be better equipped to handle the challenges that come your way this year.

Our kids are watching, counting on us, and desperately needing some level of normalcy this fall. Let’s show up together not just for our schools, but most importantly for them.

Sam Miller is the Chief Administrator with Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA), based in Cedar Falls. He can be reached at Central Rivers AEA serves over 65,000 students in 18 counties of Iowa.