The Four Values Needed for Winning An Odd 2020 School Year

I am a planner.

I thrive when things are consistent and predictable.

I tried to be spontaneous once, and no one was available to do anything with me — it was a major disappointment!

Back in July, when the school district announced it was creating an online academy option for this school year, and by enrolling in that we would know our daily schedule, I knew that was the best choice for our family.

Would it be the same as school in years past? No. Would there still be challenges we faced? Yes. My children were apprehensive about how it would go, as anyone might feel about a new experience, but we were ready.

Or so I thought.

The week before school was scheduled to start, my email inbox exploded with emails and links and names. It was so much! Having four children across all school levels in the district basically means we are connected to more than 30 different teachers, secretaries, principals, plus the district communication. I was invited to many zoom webinars.

I did not feel popular — I felt completely overwhelmed.

It felt like the entire relaxation element we had experienced during this strange quarantine time had popped like an overinflated balloon. I was not looking forward to this continuing for the next nine months.

I added every class time to each google calendar so I could tell who needed to be where this trimester. The junior high schedule is the most confusing with A/B days and Wednesday early out times, and different number of periods each day compared to the high school.

Thank goodness once I added it to the calendar, it just appeared when it was time.

The first day of school was hectic, too, because we lost power mid-day. We had made plans — what should we do?!

I had to remember to breathe; we were doing OK. Everyone is in the same situation.

The next day, everyone got up and logged in without needing any assistance from me at all. I realized I had forgotten to trust my children and their ability to manage this on their own. My own anxious feelings got in the way, and I was disconnected from them. They graciously reminded me when they said, “We know, Mom!” to my third question of whether or not they remembered what they needed to do.

It has basically been smooth sailing ever since!

I am constantly reminding myself of the values our principal shared in one of the webinars I attended.

This year, the focus is on flexibility, empathy/grace, trust, and collaboration.

This is to be modeled and expected between teachers, students, parents, and the school administration. This school year is an adventure we never imagined we would be required to take.


Sometimes the power goes out. Sometimes one class releases early, and we get absorbed in our book and miss our next class. Being flexible is probably the hardest for me, because I really appreciate consistency. My trick is to consistently be flexible. Routine is great, but learning to adjust as things outside of our control happen is a life skill that everyone benefits from knowing.


Sometimes we get multiple emails from a school we don’t attend. Sometimes we get the wrong link to log into class. This is new for every single person. Recognizing that we are all doing our best in our unique situation allows us to accept other perspectives as true. Empathy is similar to a muscle — it exists inside all of us, and it can grow or atrophy as we use or don’t use it. Let’s get stronger this year!


Sometimes we don’t have age-appropriate expectations of our children. Sometimes we don’t have the right resources or knowledge we need. Open and honest communication is the greatest foundation to trust, and then we practice behaviors like listening first, keeping commitments, and clarifying expectations to maintain that trust. Modeling and practicing these skills now will grow a great generation through this difficult season.


Sometimes we need others to help us. Sometimes we do better in a group than on our own. Being open to working with others, seeing our teachers, students, and parents on the same team working toward the same goal, is so important. We may need to do things in a different way than we are used to doing them. We may need to speak up more for what we and our children need. We can continue to have a great educational experience as we work together.

How have you experienced a moment that tested one of these values: flexibility, empathy/grace, trust, or collaboration? We’d love to hear your stories.

Dawn lives life to play! Wife to Bryan and mother of four (ages 17, 14, 12, and 8,) she finds what she most enjoys and does it. Bryan tells people she hates a blank calendar; Dawn says she loves a colorful one. With a BA in Theatre and a certificate in Performing Arts Entrepreneurship from the University of Iowa, Dawn has successfully run two business and volunteered on numerous community theatre Boards of Directors. She currently colors in her calendar with Youngevity confidence consultation appointments, Chamber Singers of Iowa City board meetings, strength training and kickboxing at NLXF-NL, managing the office at BerganKDV, and setting as many dates with friends as she can. Dawn is passionate about respect and intentional choices. She loves coffee with cream, a good wheat beer, seeing someone discover something for the first time, and listening to audio books while driving.


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