First lady Jill Biden shares back to school message for teachers, parents as year begins amid COVID-19

Dr. Jill Biden, a mom of three, has been an educator for over 30 years. Dr. Biden is the First Lady of the United States and she continues to teach as professor of writing at Northern Virginia Community College

Parenthood is experiencing conflicting emotions at the same time—loving your children more than life itself, never wanting to let them go, while also understanding they will one day walk out the door without looking back, ready to conquer the world on their own.

It’s the tangled joy and fear of watching your child take their first step onto a school bus alone.

It’s wrestling with complicated problems and weighing risks—losing sleep, worrying about the what path to take, wondering if you’re making the right choices.

As children return to in-person learning at schools across the country, however, it’s not the routine risks of childhood that are keeping parents awake at night. It’s the complicated realities of this pandemic.

PHOTO: First Lady Dr. Jill Biden says opening schools this year amid COVID-19 "will take all of us coming together."

Experience has already shown that virtual learning can leave kids feeling isolated and alone: The kindergartener who is exhausted by constantly focusing on her computer screen—but doesn’t have the language to express her discomfort. The middle-schooler who can’t get the hands-on guidance he needs and starts to believe that he is a failure—that he’s falling behind because he just isn’t smart enough. The talented high-schooler, hoping for an athletic scholarship in a sport she’s unable to play because sports have been cancelled.

As this school year begins, families across the country thought we could exhale after so many difficult months and now we’re holding our breath once again.

PHOTO: First Lady Jill Biden tours a classroom at the James Rushton Early Learning Center in Birmingham, Ala., April 9, 2021.

So many are asking: How can I be sure that my child is safe? What do I do if our family is exposed to the virus? What will we do if we have to return to virtual learning?

Parents, I want you to know that your child, your school and your family are at the heart of all that my husband, Joe, is doing to help our country defeat and ultimately recover from this pandemic.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden visit the classroom of fifth-grade teacher Cindy Bertamini, at Yorktown Elementary School in Yorktown, Va. on May 3, 2021.

As a teacher for over 30 years, and a mom even longer, I know that classrooms are so much more than places where our children learn math and reading.

I know that classrooms are so much more than places where our children learn math and reading.

We’ve all seen it: when our kids make friends that last for years, when they learn to settle disagreements or find confidence trying out for sports teams.

Parents rely on schools, too, heading to our jobs or pursuing our own education, knowing that our kids are in a safe and trustworthy environment.

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This Administration is doing all we can to keep schools open and at the same time safeguard our children.

Public health officials have laid out clear guidelines on how schools can bring kids back to the classroom safely and the American Rescue Plan has provided the support schools need to hire additional staff, including nurses.

As we’ve seen this year, so many children are dealing with grief, loss, and trauma. In order to truly serve our kids, schools must support mental health with the social and emotional resources that students need to recover, learn and grow. That’s why we are helping schools hire more counselors and social workers.

I have so much faith in the community of educators who serve our students.

I have so much faith in the community of educators who serve our students—from teachers to bus drivers to cafeteria workers. Their job is more than just a paycheck. They come to work because they care about students almost as much as parents do.

PHOTO: First Lady Jill Biden visits a classroom with protocols to avoid the spread of the coronavirus disease in Salt Lake City, Utah, May 5, 2021

With classes beginning again, the uncertainty of COVID-19 remains.

Still, we do know that vaccines and wearing masks provide the best protection available against this virus.

To keep our schools open and safe this year, it will take all of us coming together—being honest about the risks we face, listening to science, and working as one.

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