Well, the return to school is bearing down upon us.
We all knew the day was coming, and the expected tensions are high.
In an effort to help parents as best possible, I thought it would be wise to talk to a few teacher friends to get their perspective on what we can do as parents to prepare our kids for their return to the classroom. Here are some of their thoughts. (With mine, of course!)
Keep a Healthy Perspective
It’s important to remember that the people who are making decisions regarding your children and their education are good people who are working with the best information they have at this moment.
The number of competing voices is intense, but at the end of the day, these are the people who have been tasked with teaching our kids or leading our schools while keeping everyone as safe as possible.
One principal communicated this perspective.
“We know that no matter what decisions we make, they will be too progressive for some and too conservative for others. We will not get it 100% correct for every single person and that will be difficult to navigate.”
He encourages parents to consider the complexity of balancing “social-emotional health, socialization, community, not to mention the quality and variety of learning that happens in school.” Add to that the challenges of helping school staff feel safe and cared for and the issue requires grace on all sides!
As you talk to your friends, co-workers and especially children, remember to be gracious to those who have the incredibly complex task of navigating these new realities.
Don’t Fret “Recovery Learning”
One teacher told me that parents shouldn’t worry about the term “recovery learning” as this is something that teachers do every year.
Our kids always need refreshers at the beginning of the school year and those refreshers are different from student to student. Recovery learning will look different from class to class and student to student and that is a normal part of a new school year.
Remember, every student is in the same boat, they all have some catching up to do. But given a bit of time the system will adjust, and we’ll all get back on track!
So, don’t fret these terms.
Prepare Your Children Practically
One teacher suggested that, particularly with younger students, that practicing wearing a mask a home will prepare them if one is required in their school.
Currently the province is requiring masks for students in grades 4-12 when social distancing is not possible as well as on busses. If that is the case for your child, then practicing will remove some of that fear. You could even make it into a game for the younger kids.
(I’m not sure mask-wearing games would have the same impact on our high school students!)
That being said, you do need to also prepare your high school student. They need to know what will be required of them and more than young children, they need to have a compelling “why” answered if they are going to take any mandates seriously.
So, show them the research. Let them read and listen to the announcements being made by education and provincial representatives.
Furthermore, consider that there may be more than one reality to prepare your child for. Talk to them about learning in class and what learning from home could look like. Ask them if either scenario creates fear for them? Talk to them about how their friendships and relationships might look in both realities.
In addition to having intentional conversations with your kids about school, if you are struggling to wrap your head around these new realities, don’t be afraid to reach out to your child’s teacher or principal.
The best way to adapt current plans is with good intel, so be on top of communicating with teachers so that they can move forward without having to guess what parents are thinking or students are actually experiencing.
Take the Opportunity to Teach and Reinforce Kindness
I’ll admit I’m a bit ashamed of humanity when I see some of the cruelty on social media. Petitions, name calling, conspiracy theories… these can all betray some pretty nasty human tendencies. So along with my first point, let’s seize the opportunity to be both kind and teach kindness.
We are being handed a brilliant opportunity as parents to practice the kinds of values we talk about, so why not make the most of that?
Give It Some Time
Finally, be prepared for an adjustment period. Why wouldn’t there be?
You could have a kid who is more tired than usual after school, needs a bit of extra guidance a home, has more fear to deal with OR more excitement at the prospect of being with friends again.
Parenting, like most things in life, is a moving target. The best parents are those who are able to pivot and adapt to a changing environment. So, do your kids a huge favour by taking care of yourself as a parent as best as you are able.
We’re all in this together!
For the latest School Division Re-Opening Plans please visit gov.mb.ca.
Thom Van Dycke has worked with children and youth since 2001 and is a passionate advocate for healthy foster care. Together with his wife, since 2011, they have welcomed 30 foster children into their home. In 2017, Thom Van Dycke was trained as a Trust-Based Relational Intervention Practitioner.