Kids leaving the safety of Zoom and being among masked-up peers and others, along with the stimuli that accompany being in public for the first time in a year in a classroom setting, will affect everyone differently.
Here’s some advice for parents and teachers to help address some of those concerns, how to approach the coming school year, and what opportunities on how to do things better may have emerged over the past year:
1. Don’t worry about “learning loss”
One of the biggest concerns you hear about is the idea of “learning loss“—that kids will have forgotten much of what they’ve learned over the past year or backtracked during remote learning. Not to worry.
Learning loss is a misleading term that’s likely to cause anxiety. As humans, we are constantly learning. Kids are going back to schools with really varied experiences, having been at home or away from school for about a year. Parents and teachers have to find a way to keep them moving along.
2. Have some patience
Everyone—students, teachers, and parents—will have to go through a period of adjustment after being away from classmates and friends and the daily social interactions that come with that.
Patience is the key as everyone re-acclimates to being among people in real life again. Just as adults are trying to figure out how to do that, we need to have some patience with how kids are going to reconnect with their peers and teachers. Learning how to sit in classrooms and just be present, just paying attention to something that’s not a screen, might challenge some teens.
3. Give yourself some grace and extend it to others
The pandemic and its myriad effects have taken a toll on educators, students, and us parents in different ways, and everyone needs to keep that in mind in the coming year.
Parents should give themselves some grace. We have all had a very challenging year. It was not your job to make sure that your kid had a truly excellent educational experience this year. Whatever you did, let it be enough.
Teachers should be mindful of experiences students could be bringing with them into the classroom, such as the loss of a family member or someone who was out of work or facing food insecurity.
Acknowledge the challenges that kids have faced and then not simply define them in terms of that trauma but consistently see kids as capable of brilliance and full of knowledge and assets that they can bring with them.
4. Thank your kid’s teachers
Teachers, administrators, and support personnel have all been working double and triple time. One key step parents can take is to put their trust in them as in-person instruction resumes. They are working their heart out, given the circumstances.
After playing a larger role in your child’s education during the pandemic, you shouldn’t completely step back once kids return to school. Parents and schools should always be in partnership.
See your children’s teachers as allies and resources for help during the transition back to the classroom. Find a way to thank your kid’s teachers. It’s not possible to express enough gratitude for what they’re doing.
5. Take advantage of hands-on learning opportunities
6. Value food service workers
One major need that came to light during the pandemic was the critical role school food programs play. Food program employees and volunteers stepped up once schools shut down and found ways to still fill this critical need for many families.
As a result, schools redesigned many programs, partnering with nonprofits and others, to get food into the hands of families and students who were no longer gathering in a central location for school.
The whole experience can really help us appreciate how essential school food is. We should let the food service workers know that they are appreciated. They’ve all been working ceaselessly throughout impossible situations.