Melissa Englert

Special to the Reflector
Mar 20, 2020 5:00 PM

In light of the events taking place in recent days within our nation, educators and schools have felt it our duty to do our best to keep students calm and give them a feeling of security. This is a job primarily done by parents, but it is also our job as educators. Children come to us from many walks of life. As teachers we work daily to provide mentoring, support, love, faith, hope, and much more. When something unprecedented takes place, such as a pandemic, we especially want to be the voice of reason for our children. The media and social platforms will do everything from creating joking memes surrounding the situation, to spreading falsehoods to induce panic. Children rely on their parents, as well as their teachers, to be a safe-haven of truth and a blanket of security.

In our profession as teachers and educational administrators, we are not ever able to leave our work, at school. The children and their individual situations stay on our minds long into the late hours of the night. We feel a sense of responsibility for our children, because they are just that: our children. When I was a teacher, once a child was assigned to my classroom, they were one of my extended family. As a principal, when a student enrolls in Norwalk Catholic Elementary, they are part of my Flyer Family.

What I have found to be true over the last 11-plus years in education, is that children crave structure, acceptance, and love. Teaching children the importance of reading, mathematics, and various things such as problem-based learning are all extremely important. But if a child is missing one of the three essential components (structure, acceptance, and/or love), none of the important concepts will be learned. Until a child feels they are loved by someone, accepted for who they are, and/or given some sense of structure, be it within their daily school routine or their home life, effective learning cannot seemingly take place.

What can we do in times of distress, as care-givers trying to raise happy and healthy children? I feel it is vital to limit or eliminate social media and news media viewing for younger children. We must make an effort to spend time with our children to help them to know they are valued and loved. We need to put cell phones down and have a conversation with children, while giving no directives to pick up or complete a task: have a real conversation. As a working mother, I am guilty of trying to answer one last email or respond to a work text, ending up only half listening to how my son or daughter’s day went. Give your children your undivided attention for thirty minutes to an hour each day. You will be surprised by how much of a difference you will make in their overall well-being.

Provide structure for children. Plain and simple, make them clean up after themselves, have a decent bed-time, and hold them accountable for their deeds/actions. When we do this as parents and educators, we are showing children they are God’s gift and they are worth our time. This sends the message that we care enough and that they are special enough, that we want them to grow up to be amazing people, fulfilling their God-given purpose.

And no matter what, accept children for who they are. As parents, we sometimes want our kids to do or finish the things in life we may not have accomplished. I was a cheerleader and in theater; I would love for one of my children to do the same. However, all of them love sports and will never cheer or act on stage. This is each child’s personal journey, not ours: let them walk their own path. As Proverbs 22:6 states “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it”.

Parenting is one of the most difficult jobs I have ever had. It is also the most rewarding and fulfilling adventure I have ever been on. As parents and educators, we work hard each day and do the best we can. That is all we can ask for. Stay safe, stay healthy, and may God bless us.

Local columnist Melissa Englert is elementary principal at Norwalk Catholic School.