The upcoming school year is at the forefront of most minds. Do we send the kids? Do we keep them home? What about homeschooling and virtual school? Will my kids be safe at school? What will school even look like? While all of those questions are swirling around all of our mom brains, for those who are sending kids back to school, it’s time to start gearing up!
It’s going to be unfamiliar and scary for 1st-12th graders who know what school is supposed to look and feel like and even though kindergarteners may adjust quickly because they don’t know any different, they will need to some idea of what to expect, too. Here are my top six tips that I hope my future students’ parents are thinking about as we prepare to head back to school. (Remember these are subject to the districts around me and not all may apply.)
Obviously this has been around for months! Most children have seen people in masks at stores, on TV, or in the neighborhood. But to see your teacher and friends that way….YIKES! Begin talking to your child now and preparing them for what it will look like to see all their favorite teachers in masks. Go through a yearbook and cover up teachers’ faces and see if they can guess who is who! Practice fun hairstyles that don’t interfere with mask straps, and can show off your child’s unique style since their face will be covered. If your child wears glasses, definitely try a few masks to see which ones fog up and which ones don’t. And don’t forget to talk about seeing friends in masks.
If you have a shy, quiet kiddo like mine, who doesn’t mind blending in, make sure they put on a mask and practice talking assertively. It’s hard enough to bond with a teacher and classmates when you are shy; now with an actual barrier up, it might be even harder. So stand in front of a mirror and make those eyebrows wiggle! Have your child practice saying their name loud enough for someone else to hear and practice asking questions through a mask. You might also have your loud kiddo practice not shouting through the mask. My youngest thinks a mask makes everyone deaf, so she shouts at us like we are 105 years old.
We have been preaching “classroom community” and “sharing is caring” for years. How do you share during a pandemic? Classroom supplies are going to be very different now. Prepare your student for this. While sharing is caring, brainstorm other ways your kiddo can help out a friend if they lose a supply. Teach them what to do when they find a random eraser on the floor (maybe grab a tissue to pick it up, throw it away/find the owner, then hand sanitize) or whatever you’d feel comfortable with them doing. While we teachers will work hard to build our community, safety is key and picking up after each other isn’t just doesn’t look the same during a pandemic.
Well, we’ll all have a “Secretary of Sanitization” now! If your kiddo has lived for jobs like “Cubby Curator” or “Pencil Patrol” already, get them thinking about how those jobs may not be safe. Brainstorm new jobs that would help out the classroom during this time that way they are fresh and ready when the teacher asks.
Start the dialogue right now about how different these things are going to be. Even if you have no idea what your school is planning, it’s going to be different from what your child is used to or what they’ve heard about if this is their formal schooling experience. Instead of having a negative attitude about it, shift your mindset to help your student get ready to shift theirs. Recess will look different, they may have to stay in a zone or alternate days. Come up with recess games they can play only on the blacktop or only on the field. Talk about how can they play without getting too close to their friends. If you are positive in helping them mentally prepare now, then they won’t be so overwhelmed and disappointed when they actually get to school. So what if lunch is in the classroom? What a great time to bond even more with your teacher and classmates! What are some questions that can be asked of the teachers during lunch chats? Specials. While all specials could pretty much be done in the classroom, start prepping for what PE might look like if the coach has to come to the classroom. Try playing some classic PE games at home in the basement or living room to show how they can be adjusted. While it won’t be the best, it could always be worse.
We all thrive on touch. Right now, it’s just not safe. Practice different types of greetings (elbow bumps, foot taps) that your child can use to greet their teacher and friends. You could even make up a family pandemic greeting.
Don’t forget to have patience with your child’s teacher. This is not the way we want to teach either, but we are excited! And be sure to have patience with your child and with yourself. We are all in this together, no matter your schooling decision!