Back-to-School in 2020: Dos and Don’ts from A Teacher Mom

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When it comes to the coronavirus, plans can change in an instant. One plan we can count on is that we know school is going to look different this year. Although we are still learning what plans are for our children and their education, there are a few things we can think about as we head into what might be the craziest/most innovative/unique school year ever.  

DO take a deep breath and prepare to be flexible. While we don’t have a crystal ball to tell us exactly how the school year is going to go, we can almost certainly count on it being different than we are accustomed to and probably changing after that. Remind yourself now that you can do hard things! This too shall pass (right?!).

DON’T neglect preparing for a school closure. If childcare is a concern, reach out to a stay-at-home-mom friend or a family member to see if they are able to be on call (of course assuming your child was not directly exposed to the coronavirus and does not have any symptoms). Talk to your employer in advance on what the expectation is for you if your child needs to be home instead of school.  If you’re someone who would be able to help out a family whose parents cannot be home during a school closure, now is the time to be the village.  Reach out to see how you can help!

DO educate yourself early on what digital platforms your child will be expected to use in case of a school closure. Log on, play around, and think critically of what you may have trouble with later on.  Ask your child’s teacher these questions early to avoid delays in responses or confusion if/when schools close.

DON’T forget to take a step back and catch your breath if you feel like you’re about to lose it. There will be inconvenient changes this school year, but remember it’s for the safety of an entire school.  There may be days that you have to be a mom/employee/home school teacher and your child refuses to do what is asked.  Take a breather.  Come back to the problem later when you’re calm.  

DO encourage your child to express how they feel about the upcoming school year. Allow them to talk about what they are excited for but also what they are worried about. Begin discussions early about what changes they may notice this year so that they have time to process and ask questions. It’s ok if you don’t have all the answers (no one does!) so remember to empathize and encourage as we all work through this and learn together.

DON’T forget it’s OK to ask for help! Despite what highlights you see on social media, no one really knows how to do school perfectly in a pandemic. If you are struggling, check in with your child’s teacher first (even before asking on Facebook). This year is a new way of school for educators as well, so there may be times when an assignment or activity seemed to make sense to him/her but is as clear as mud for families at home! Teachers want to be the best help for all students and families and I promise they will be thankful you ask for help instead of stressing! DO give teachers grace this year.

DO have some school supplies specifically for home. We know schools desperately want to have in-person classes but safety is the number one priority and this may mean that some remote learning will happen at some point. For younger learners, consider having crayons, sharpened pencils, scissors, glue, blank paper and/or construction paper, a folder for keeping activities together, and markers (but save these for a special day to make them fun!). Older students may need several of the same supplies, but also consider notebook paper, a composition notebook, and dry erase markers. If there is the potential that more than one child may be learning virtually at the same time, I would also highly recommend headphones! Keep these supplies together and in a safe place so you won’t be scrambling later. If it’s possible, let your students help pick these supplies out (even if it’s online shopping!) so they can feel that back-to-school excitement for potential learning at home, too!

DON’T worry about your child falling behind. Remember that kids across our country are in a similar learning environment. Teachers are experts in education, and as we work through this uncertain year and beyond, teachers will be there to fill in the gaps and help prepare your child for a bright future. DO make sure your child is working through the assignments and activities as best as he/she can though – every little bit will help!

DO save your venting for your spouse/partner/best friend when the kids are not around. This will no doubt be a challenging school year, but little ears are listening to you and learning from your example. If you break down and threaten to quit, it’s going to be really hard for your child to do differently. You have every right to have your down moments, but try to make sure you stay strong and positive in front of your kids.

I’m not saying this year is going to be easy, but I do know you’re strong, mama.  You’ve got this!

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