Caring Relationships Back-To-School Challenge

Last night, as our family sat around our Sunday night dinner, we talked about the ways in which we were adjusting and reacting to the big changes in our lives. This past week, my son started in a brand new school – new teachers, new students, new parents. And for our family, it felt like an earth-shaking shift. Our gravitational center was no longer in our home for learning (where it’s been as we homeschooled last year) but in a new place where much of the decision-making is far from our influence or control. 

Have you experienced a monumental shift this school year? Whether your child is shifting from preschool to kindergarten, from middle school to high school or from remote learning to in-person learning, this back-to-school season represents big changes for many if not most families. Because last school year posed hardships in differing ways for all of us, we are bringing caution to this season. We are feeling a sense of vulnerability and a lack of safety. We know that in order for learning to happen, our children first must feel safe. And then, they must feel cared for, that their presence matters, and that they bring unique and important values and strengths and contributions to the classroom community.

I cannot think of a more important focus in this back to school season than investing ourselves in cultivating safe, caring relationships. Yes, it will take courageous empathy to reach out to those who may have opposing views or hail from different cultures. However, our being present with, our paying attention to, our learning about the deepest cares we each bring to our child’s education has the potential to unite us around our students’ shared well-being. If we are present to one another and open to the strengths we can each contribute, we’ll be able to focus on the core reason that brings us together as educators, parents, and community partners — advancing our children’s learning. 

Creating safety and caring is not about one big, grand gesture. It takes many small acts of kindness and care to grow trust. It requires listening with an open mind to others. It requires being curious and looking for the best in one another. So join me. Tell me – what are you doing to create safe, caring relationships in your school community?

Already started school? It’s never too late! Comment below or you can email Jennifer Miller at and be sure to place in the subject line: #caringrelationships.

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