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Guest Blog: Special Education Leader Specialist, Mandy Kasowicz on the end of the 2019-2020 School Year

By Mandy Kasowicz, MEd, Adjunct Professor, Saint Mary’s University Minnesota

Every school year ends and this unique school year is no exception. Teachers spend the final few days with their class with mixed feelings. Excitement for summer with the chance to rest and rejuvenate and the realization of another school year is ending. When I was in the classroom, I had traditions I celebrated which were probably more for me, but my students also benefited from soaking in the effects of another school year. On the very last day of school, I stood in the doorway of my classroom and offered a hug or a high five to each student on their way out. I taught high school special education and was always shocked at the number who opted for a hug. They chuckled as I stood in the doorway and hugged them with giant tears streaming down my face. After the door shut, I looked around the empty classroom and felt all the feelings. This year will be no different for teachers, except they will be in their homes logging off the last Zoom meeting. Without a doubt, we will feel all the feelings.

Recently, a friend asked me if teachers were really as sad as they said they were in their communications during distance learning. She was struggling with the sudden need to balance being the mom, working full time and being in an educator role – all from home. She was honest that she will forever value what a teacher does in a way she didn’t recognize before. She thought there was NO WAY a teacher could miss what she was experiencing. I reassured it that it was hard work; but, we love it and are sad we don’t get the closure we are so desperately looking for.

As teachers develop creative ways to find closure in the strange 19-20 school year, they will mourn the loss of this class, celebrate their accomplishments. Meanwhile, parents are grappling with what to do next. Several more months of time they need to figure out the balance and next steps of the great unknown. With so much information floating out there it is hard to know what to do. Parents and teachers are both struggling with the buzzwords: regression, grade-level, equity, achievement gap.

At the end of the day, it boils down to: Everyone is doing the best they can. Schools know students are coming in after a rocky spring and are already making plans to address standards not covered and academic regression. Parents worry about what they should be doing over the summer to make sure their kids aren’t “behind”. Families with students with special needs will be pondering over what is best for their child and their need for respite care. Talk to your case manager and use services like Joshin to ease the burden. Take time for yourself, too.

I could offer you a list of apps and strategies to do in the summer (and if you are interested in that, reach out directly to me. I love talking about learning). In the end, I offer this: please take time for your personal closure. Celebrate the parts of this Spring that you loved the most. Pack away the things which didn’t work. Feel all those feelings. Finally, as you move into summer, do summer with zest and joy!