It’s back to school time across America, amid unprecedented uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic. For Ask the Experts this month, we asked KidsPeace educators to share advice to parents on how to meet the unique challenges this year.
Back to School
By Dr. James McNealey
When we walk into our local store and see the displays of notebooks and pencils, we know that another school year is upon us. Kids and parents alike are all excited to buy new materials, new clothes and meet new people. But this is 2020, a year like no other in modern times, and districts around the world are scrambling to decide the best model for their community schools to prepare for staff and students.
This is the perfect time for parents and children to have critical conversations about this unique school year. There are some classic school rules that are critical to remember and modify to the method of instructional delivery for your school district.
HANDS (AND FEET) TO YOURSELF
With the ongoing saga of COVID-19, we have all been reminded of this rule. If children are going back to face-to-face instruction, families should have conversations about this practice. You cannot hug your friends or teachers right now. There are creative ways to greet each other and follow the 6-feet guideline. As you pass into your class, offer a simple elbow bump with your teacher. Some people greet with a “low five” where they tap one foot with the other person followed by the other foot. Your teacher may have a unique way for you to greet each other.
RAISE YOUR HAND TO SPEAK
Remember that COVID-19 is spread through the air, so just imagine what is going on in your classroom if everyone is talking at the same time. Your teacher may come up with a unique way for your voice to be heard without even talking. (Of course, this is not an issue in a digital platform; in that situation students and teachers will have to work out how students can be called upon to participate remotely in class discussions.)
KEEP YOUR BELONGINGS TO YOURSELF
You cannot trade lunches or listen to the latest hit on someone’s earbud at this time. You may want to loan a pencil to a friend that just broke theirs or ask a friend for some extra paper for your assignment. The best way for us to stay safe is to use the materials you brought from home. Your teacher may have extras for anyone that may have forgotten something.
If you are involved in distance learning, try to make the school environment a special place just for school. Some Dads have donated their “man cave” and Moms have donated their “she shed” as the remote classroom. Remember to set a time for breaks and to unwind. I know of one group of parents that have bonded together to make each one of their homes the “schoolhouse” for the day. They all take their kids to that one house so that they can have social interaction while learning. Each of the five families sacrificed a day for someone to be home with the kids during digital learning.
When we finally take charge of this virus, there may be some new and better ways to educate our children. Make sure that kids are a part of the decision-making process so that they will fully buy into whatever your family decides is best for you.
And remember that we are all in this together.
Dr. James McNealey is Principal of KidsPeace School of Georgia in Bowdon, GA
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