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As a warning, this blog is a little long and a little heavy. I hope you find it helpful.

Last week, I wrote about assuming that other people are doing the best that they can. My suggestion is that we are seeing more frustration and anger these days and that we could benefit from more grace and kindness.

This blog is related to that one. It starts a bit on the dark/depressing side but ends with some hope.

This summer, we are seeing trends that will absolutely happen in the fall. Please allow me to share perhaps the most striking one.

Simply put, returning to schools will be hard, very hard.

I do not mean overcoming learning loss from the year online. That is absolutely a major problem, but not one I can speak intelligently about.

I am saying we will see emotional and social challenges in our students. We are seeing young people who are not quite ready for a return to the classroom. Simply put, they have had less time to practice their interpersonal skills and develop their resilience. I am also expecting teachers to be less patient and more frustrated. Perhaps their frustration will come from needing to teach 4th grade concepts to 5th graders. Perhaps it will be exhaustion from trying to teach last year using a completely new pedagogy (online or hybrid). Perhaps they, like all of us, have thin emotional brake pads. I am guessing most teachers will be dealing with all three.

I also think that parents will be more distraught, scared and frustrated. Worried about their children, they will be quicker to react to an impatient teacher or a rude classmate.

And we will have more impatient teachers and rude classmates.

At camp, I believe that we get the parents who send their kiddos to camp are extra conscientious and attentive. I also believe that they (you) value resilience slightly more than the average parent. You do not expect your children to be comfortable 100% of the time, understanding that growth comes through challenge. But even our “better” group of parents are more strained and less patient. Heck, we are as well.

Here at camp, the cabins are harder to manage because the campers have eroded social skills. The counselors are less ready to manage every challenge because they have also experienced anxiety and challenge, including losing an entire year of college to Zoom meetings. And our parents (you) are also suffering.

I share this not to complain, but to prepare you for what I think will be an inevitably tricky return to school.

But I promised you a positive ending to this bummer of a blog.

Your children will have the benefit of being at camp. Their emotional brake pads may still be thin, but they will be thicker than those of their peers. They might not be 100% back to pre-COVID social skills, but they have practiced their social skills all day long for 14-21 days – without screens or apps to interrupt the true human contact.

I share this not just to make you feel better, but to suggest that you issue a challenge to your kiddos before they return to school. Perhaps you can share something like the following,

“Your friends will be coming back to school with less confidence and fewer social skills. They have spent a year interacting with screens and Zoom and now will be back in class and on the playground. But you went to camp. You have been free of screens. You lived for 2 or 3 weeks with other kiddos and practiced your social skills. This gives you a power they might not have, and it is a power you can share with your friends. They will need someone to help lift them up, support them and help them relearn how to talk and play in person. You may need to be a little extra patient with you teachers because they have also had a tough year. Our classrooms will need some leaders and heroes. I am proud that you will get a chance to be one of them.”

Last night at Vespers (a time when we reflect on our community, gratitude and positivity), I issued a similar challenge to our campers.

We do want them to know that they will enter the classroom (and the extracurriculars) with an advantage. I also believe that they will want to share those advantages with others who are having troubles.

I look forward to hearing from any of you about what you see this fall. I especially want to hear the success stories that involve your child. This feels like the extra mission of this summer.

Steve Sir