Sunday, January 17, 2021

It’s Not Just New Lunchboxes: Teachers and Parents Talk Back to School

Back To School 2020 is not just getting a new lunchbox and seeing if pants have turned into high-waters over the summer.  Teachers and parents alike face a world of decisions and preparation with considerations that are brand new.

Parents are choosing between school formats, from traditional to virtual to homeschool to anything inbetween.  Will it be safe?  Will everyone wear a mask?  Will surfaces really be sanitized?  Is my child going to come home sick one day?

I reached out to teachers and parents for some feedback about how they are getting ready for school. One common thread is that everyone will need lots of understanding; both teachers and parents have very valid concerns.

Parents, teachers want you to know that they are nervous and unsure how the new restrictions for the classroom will work.  Teachers may also be teaching virtual classes, adding workload and responsibilities.  Keeping a mask on a classroom of students and monitoring their social distancing adds a “herding cats” element to their day, in addition to teaching and correcting behavior problems, which are inevitable with a new environment to adjust to, wearing a mask for the greater part of the day, and the fears a child may have with Covid-19 concerns.

Parents would be doing their child and their teacher a favor by taking some time for home training.  Turn off any distractions and have a light, family talk about going back to school.  It cannot be accentuated enough that your attitude becomes your child’s attitude.  Regardless of your views of mask wearing, this is going to be part of your child’s life if they attend a school environment that requires them.  Make it a point to ask them how they feel about wearing a mask to school, and explain how wearing a mask has benefits, helps everyone stay well, and doesn’t mean that they are sick.   Let them pick out masks in fun patterns or in favorite colors!  Have young children? Check out this article on kids and masks for super helpful hints!

Your child will need their own supplies, as community supplies are no longer, and they will need them day one.  In addition, teachers want you to plan for supplies at home in the case of being sick, quarantined, or in the case of being on a hybrid schedule of traditional and virtual school.  Extra hand sanitizer, hand soap, and disinfecting wipes will be some of the most-used school supplies this year; start looking now for these items.  Check online shopping if your local stores don’t have the supply you need.

Teachers, parents want you to know that you are superheroes!  You’re in a job that is tough and just got tougher.  But just like teachers need understanding, parents need it too!  This is a first-time Covid back to school and most students have been home since March.  Parents feel like that they can control their environment at home, but can feel out-of-control with their student going to back to school

Many parents have had to radically change their work schedules, and some have had to leave their jobs.  Having children go back to school represents a little bit of return to normal for parents, but many fear for their jobs and their livelihood if they or their child contract Covid-19.

So there are a lot of concerns on both sides.  How can parents and teachers meet in the middle?

Parents, choose the school option that makes the most sense for your family.  Make this decision with your family dynamic, financial health, and student learning style in mind.  There is no shame in any decision, except the one you make without thought and discussion.  Single parent with multiple children?  Nuclear family unit with one stay at home parent?  Both parents work?  Student learns best in a group?  Self-motivated student who would love to be in a virtual classroom?  Student who hated virtual school in the spring?  Take all of this into account when making the decision for your student’s school.

Parents, please do not contact the teacher excessively.  The teacher is teaching, leading, and loving students during school time.  He/she will return your contact as soon as possible.  Spend some extra time at home to make sure lunches are packed, papers are signed, and folders are prepared.  Let me encourage you to limit your contact to Monday-Friday.  Everyone needs some time to unwind and de-stress.  Unfriend your child’s teacher on Facebook.  Give teachers space and time to be the best teacher they can be when they are at work.

Teachers, please be patient with parents.  They really are trying to not freak out during the day and not worry about their flesh and blood.  Many have had their kids home for a long time.  There may be an adjustment period where both student and parent have separation anxiety.  Encourage students to express how they feel about coming back to school and having school be completely different than last year.  Teachers, make sure that there is fun in each day.  Make school a place a student wants to come to, even with a mask and social distancing.

As we on are on the brink of school starting, please take time to carefully pray about your concerns and fears; share with your friends and encourage each other, carefully avoiding the temptation to focus on fear.  We are in a time that we can innovate and create new options that have never existed.  Let’s look towards the future and make this a year to remember for the best reasons!