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2020: Chapter September

It’s hard to believe, but school starts in Wisconsin this week.


I say it’s hard to believe mostly because I can’t believe summer is coming to a close. At the same time, this feels like the longest summer break ever. I think a lot of that is this feeling that we’re living in the movie Groundhog Day that this pandemic has made a reality for so many of us.


But, Wisconsin state law says public schools can’t start before September 1st, so here we are on the eve of the 2020-2021 school year.


Our school district is starting the year without in-person instruction for any students. In at least one local district, the kids who need the most support will have at least some in-person instruction, but ours is starting virtually.


And as I’m sure most of you would agree, it feels like a really strange way to start the school year.


I know a lot of kids and their families struggled with virtual learning last spring. Through it, though, our school districts have learned a lot about how to help the students, families and staff members have more success going forward. For example, our school district has built in a lot more structure than last year. For Nolan, that was definitely a huge piece of what he was missing.


But we’ve been dreading virtual learning even with more structure than last spring… That is until a magical phone call that Kirk got late last week.


Our school district decided to offer in-person instruction to some of its most high-need students. Which means Nolan gets a tiny taste of “closer to normal”. Heck, we don’t even know details of how many hours or days per week to expect yet, and we won't head back to the classroom until the second week of school... But hopefully this means some of the social backsliding he’s done will slow or maybe even stop.


And with more structure, hopefully his behaviors will also improve. I mean I get it… I’m anxious and a little crotchety when I don’t know what to expect of my day. So multiply that times about 170, and that’s where Nolan is right now. And that feels pretty accurate some days.


I remember last year when Kirk was dreading Nolan’s transition back into the school year… We’d had a summer program with a new-to-us provider that was a lot less structured than Nolan was used to, and we were a little worried that the contrast of the new school year would be a tough adjustment.


After just a few days, Nolan was calmer and happier than he’d been in what had felt like a very long time. It was like spending all day being sweaty and exhausted from being overheated when you finally get the relief of a nice cool shower. The structure and routine of the school days had finally given him what he needed to feel that something was right in the world.


Of course, we’re worried that this year’s transition will be harder than normal after the extended time away from school… But part of me hopes that the fact that he’ll get to go back (even if it is to a new building with new staff and new expectations…) gives him a little bit more of what makes his world feel a little closer to “right” again.


Plus it’s nice to have to worry about Kirk a little less. Let’s be real here—his schedule has changed dramatically because of the closure of schools. When Nolan is in school, he usually has time to both get his work done and sleep. Without school, it’s been a little hairy for him, and I’m sure his burnout meter is just about topped out.


So while I’m trying to remain cautiously optimistic, at least the optimistic piece is back in the picture. I mean, I’m not saying that someone has finally extinguished the dumpster fire that this year has become, but at least maybe we’ve kept it from spreading a little… Maybe.


But he's ready.

Freshman year, here we come!

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