I hope you’re reading this at home and are taking the Shelter in Place Order seriously.

This is a stressful time, and I am praying our community is spared the worst of it. Together, we can behave responsibly and keep the spread of COVID-19 under control in Atchison. I applaud the Atchison County Health Department for acting proactively. I’m glad they didn’t wait until we were in a crisis situation to make this decision. Please stay at home and use this opportunity to act in the best interests of your neighbors and friends.

We all have new stress that we are dealing with. For hospital employees, it is going to work and trying not to bring anything home to their family. For others, it’s facing the challenge of isolation. Those that now find themselves without work face the stress of a virus coupled with money fears. For parents, it is the stress of trying to continue their children’s education. Be gracious to one another. We get through this by helping each other out.

This last week I’ve been wrapping my head around how I’m going to educate my daughters while school is out. I know the leaders of Atchison Public Schools USD 409 are working out the details of a distance learning plan, but for now, it’s my job to bridge the gap.

It can be a little intimidating looking on Facebook and seeing those super parents/educators and all their great ideas. I’m not a math or English teacher, and I’m not a terribly crafty person who is going to make Pinterest worthy lesson plans. I can’t duplicate their efforts, and I’m not going to try to.

I have my own skills, though. I managed garden centers for years and even oversaw the production for a pumpkin patch. I’m handy with tools and can do most odd jobs around the house. I’m going to use this time to be intentional about teaching those skills to my daughters.

We are going to start a garden from seed and construct new garden boxes. We are building a chicken coop and will raise chicks this spring. Yesterday I taught Kate how to clean out the P trap under a sink. It won’t show up on a standardized test, but it’s a valuable life skill that will come in handy someday.

A common complaint about our school system is that it doesn’t teach those life skills. Well, here’s our chance to fix that. What is a talent that you have? What can you teach your kids better than any educator could? My daughters, Kate and Harper, will still have to work on those core subjects, though, and I’m definitely going to steal some of those great ideas off of Facebook.

I’m incredibly jealous of the parents that were born for this moment, but I’m thankful they are sharing their talents for the rest of us to emulate. Maybe I can return the favor. I started a Facebook group called Everyday Experts, where us ordinary parents share a basic lesson focused on life skills.

The way it works is your kid helps you make a video teaching a basic lesson, and then you share it with the group. Your kid gets to learn in a fun way while shooting the video, and then our kids get to learn from your expertise. We don’t take it too seriously. Nobody is expecting production value worthy of Hollywood. This is about working with our kids and teaching in a new way.

So what lesson could you teach Atchison kids? We all have a lot more free time now to work around the house. The list of things I told my wife I would get to when I had more time has finally come due. As you take on your projects, consider sharing your knowledge with the rest of us.

I want to be able to look back on this time and think about how much we gained in a time of adversity instead of what we lost.

Shawn Rizza has served on the City of Atchison City Commission since January 2018, following his election to a four-year term in November 2017. His colleagues appointed him as mayor for a second one-year term in December 2019.

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