When kids are young, we talk to them about the five senses: sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste. We play games like “I Spy,” sing songs, dance, “Just eat three bites,” and read books like Pat the Bunny to give kids opportunities to experience each of their senses.`
There are more than five though. And it became incredibly evident that there were more than five when we lost them during the pandemic.
We lost a sense of community. We lost a sense of normalcy. We struggled to find a sense of safety, always wondering when which new variant was coming and how bad it would be.
I was speaking with a group of parents earlier and one noted that she uses the phrase “cautiously optimistic” so that nothing gets jinxed and we continue to head toward a sense of nearer-normal-ish.
You can’t fathom what you’ve lost until you really can’t have it. For me, a sense of community has been missing for some time. There is so much division in the world, so many areas of conflict, and so much fear around what might be next that any sense of community was a struggle to keep.
I had a group of six parents in a room today. A few I knew, a few I didn’t, and I was thrilled to see them with or without masks because they had this 30-minute block of time where they got to see other parents with whom they will share a school experience. Their children are entering kindergarten and the past few batches of kindergarten families have not been able to meet one another until schools started if at all. They weren’t able to sit and chat because each was safely in their own vehicle, windows rolled up tight, hoping that their little one wouldn’t bring home the latest version of ick. They couldn’t sit and chat because others were at home, supporting their child’s first year of school from behind a computer screen. I cannot imagine what that was like.
We’re finally to a point where we can be together in a room, see one another’s expressions, hear each other’s voices. We can talk about kids and their quirks, their hopes and dreams, and our struggles, our worries, and our hopes too. We can do it together in a space and create a sense of community, laughing at the goofy things our kids do, the latest topic of obsession, and the struggles of parenting kids…and gifted kids who are a whole ‘nother animal altogether.
And I am beyond happy about it. Community is everything when it comes to education. Without a sense of community, schools struggle. Kids can’t connect with one another, with teachers, with the greater school environment…and then they struggle to learn. Without a sense of community, families are alone on a raft in the middle of an ocean. They aren’t sure who to talk to, who has the answers to the questions they have.
I have always loved conference days, getting to meet parents, getting to talk about the amazing kids they are raising. It’s a chance to build community…
And today, I get to talk with families who will join us next year…and they get to help us rebuild our sense of community and bring us back home to our Why.