COVID has shaken us. It’s forced us to change our schedules, our routines, our lifestyles, and for many moms – I think we’ve reached our breaking points. Some even more than once.
When school began, a common phrase I heard many moms throwing around was, “I hope we make it two weeks. That’s all I’m asking. Two weeks.” Well, two weeks have come and gone. School seems to be going OK, and my kids are ecstatic to be back into a school routine with teachers and friends, even if it may be a new normal.
As for me? I’m struggling. I miss school. I miss my teacher friends. I miss high fiving my kid’s friends on the sidewalk at dismissal. When it comes down to it, I simply miss the connections that a school environment provides. Many teachers are even asking themselves if it’s even worth teaching any more. And I get that! I really do. I myself am a former teacher who advocates STRONG for educators. As a teacher-turned-parent, all I want to do is help, but yet I’m feeling nothing more than emptiness and a need to help – but I don’t know how. What’s right anymore? What’s wrong? When am I doing something that can help, vs something to add to their stress load? I feel like those are questions I seem to ask myself on a daily basis.
Now that we’ve been in school for more than the hopeful two weeks with what seems to be a hopeful future, I’ve taken it upon myself to ask teachers – HOW CAN I HELP YOU?! What can I do [as a parent] to help you in the classroom, without being IN the classroom?
THINGS THAT ARE FREE (but require a little bit of time)…
- First and foremost – RESPOND TO COMMUNICATION. I cannot tell you how many teachers mentioned this to me. Communication is key. We all know that, but do we all truly communicate to the extent that we should? Teachers are going above and beyond to communicate with parents this year (email, apps, Facebook, etc) and rarely do they get a response. If your teacher sends a group email, a simple reply of “thank you for the information” means more than we parents will ever know. Teachers just want to know that the time they spend with our children is received & acknowledged.
- GET DRESSED & READY FOR DISTANCE LEARNING, just as you would for a day AT school! It helps kids differentiate home from school, and gives students structure. Your teachers can tell when a student rolls out of bed and props open their computer without breakfast or brushing their hair. Have them take the time to get ready for school, and your teacher will thank you!
- SEND A PERSONAL NOTE. A simple, positive, kind email or snail mail (can always be sent to the school) means so, SO much! For teachers who are working remotely this year, a hand held note makes this “distance” feel a little more personal to help boost morale during these extremely tough times.
- WRITE TO A FORMER TEACHER. This one piggy backs on the previous idea. Think back to a previous teacher that you had, and send them a note about how they were a positive influence in your life. If you have young kiddos, have them draw a picture to send to their former teacher/s. During tough times, it’s always uplifting to know that you made a difference in the lives of those you formerly taught – to the point that they remember the impact you had!
- DON’T FORGET THE “OTHER” STAFF AT SCHOOL. Art, music, PE, special education, band, library, office admin, nurses, counselors, etc! These roles are the working gears of a school. Without them, a school doesn’t run. If you have a moment, shoot them a little note to let them know you appreciate everything they are doing too. Many of the specials teacher have taken on additional roles during this pandemic, and they too are running low on energy. It takes a village to teach our children – and they need to know how much we care about them as well!
- PARTICIPATE IN EDUCATION AT HOME. Read with your kids, teach them to tie their shoes, zip coats, button jeans, blow nose, etc. If we spend time working on the “simple” things at home, teachers can spend more time educating them with the grade level standards they are expected to cover each year.
- OFFER TO HELP WITH THE TIME CONSUMING & TEDIOUS PHYSICAL WORK (cutting, gluing, sorting) so they can spend more time on planning and communication during their plan block. You can come up with a system to place a tub of work outside a certain door to get materials to and from the teacher so there’s no need to go in and out of the school.
- SET UP A READ ALOUD SCHEDULE VIA ZOOM. Having a guest reader is always popular in elementary school, but COVID put a damper on the surprise of a loved one showing up at the door to read…so do the same thing through video! Kids would love to see their family read a book on the giant board at school!
- DECORATE THE SIDEWALKS WITH ENCOURAGING NOTES. Gather a group of your mama friends and secretly do this during school one day. Teachers and students will see all of your creations when they leave school that day!
- DONATE USED BOOKS TO SCHOOLS IN NEED. When schools go to hybrid or remote learning, accessibility gaps widen. Not all students have the luxury or ability to get books at home, or from a library. Consider going through unused books that you no longer use. Reach out to area schools and donate them for students in need.
- SCHEDULE A FOOD TRUCK TO SERVE LUNCH FOR TEACHERS. Food trucks are HUGE in Wichita these days, and many of them do not charge to show up at any location. If you clear it through the administration at your school, schedule a food truck to set up in the parking lot and serve teachers one day for lunch! This one takes a little extra planning and prep, but can be done. Teachers would have to pay for their meal, or maybe you could coordinate for the PTO to cover the cost of $5/teacher.
THINGS THAT REQUIRE PURCHASES (yet not too much)…
- SEND A RANDOM “TREAT OF KINDNESS” TO YOUR TEACHER. These are little things I like to do randomly, about once a month. As a former teacher, I always loved getting these things, so I’ve made it a point to always do it for my kiddo’s teachers! I like to drop off their favorite drink (Sonic or Starbucks are always a hit), a little snack, flowers, or a gift card with the admin assistant in the office, and they can deliver it directly to your teacher’s desk when they are out of the room as a little morale booster!
- DECORATE CLASSROOM DOORS FOR DIFFERENT SEASONS. Get with the other moms in your class and arrange to decorate their classroom door. It helps to ask the teachers for butcher paper (most have this in their supply room) and they can cut it to the size of the door. Have them send it home with their kiddo (or pick up in the office) and decorate it at home with other moms in the class. When you’re finished, send it back to school and the teacher can hang it up! This is a great way to also get to know other moms in the class and feel a sense of community without having to step foot inside the school.
- DONATE SNACKS TO THE TEACHER’S LOUNGE. This is an easy, hands on thing you could do for all staff in a school. Simply drop off snacks (individually wrapped items is appreciated these days) to the front office, and mention that it’s for the break room. You’ll quickly become the hero of the day among the teachers…trust me!
- JOIN A TEACHER WISHLIST GROUP ON FACEBOOK. Teacher wish lists have always been a thing, but the popularity of these lists really blew up this summer! There are groups for most areas that you can join and send wish list items directly to a teacher’s school to help support needs in their classroom!
- PLAN MAMA MEET-UPS. As much time and effort as we have spent on keeping our life “together” over the past six months, don’t forget that we mamas also need our own time. Pamper yourself. Meet up with other moms from your class. Get coffee. Go out for dinner. Host a wine tasting night. Do something together and remember that we are all experiencing stressful times and that it’s ok to have a bad day – but that’s it’s also OK to have a good day!