No matter your age, the calendar’s flipto the month of September is reminiscent of back-to-school times, past and present. Retailers are full of shiny new backpacks, multipacks of pencils, and the 2021 must-have, hand sanitizer and masks. Whether you’re a parent, teacher, caretaker, microlearning pod instructor, or you fall somewhere in between, back to school is on all of our minds.
We know the decision to return back to in-person or virtual learning was a difficult one for everyone. Whichever decision was made, we want to commend each and every person involved in education — from parents to students to teachers and administrative staff — for making the best out of an incredible set of circumstances. We wanted to share a few ways to help support teachers and your children during this back-to-school season as we move into another school year.
Create a Learning Zone
In order to maintain as much normalcy as possible, helping your child to create a learning zone in which they can focus and be productive is key to a successful school year. Talk to your child about where and how they want to set up their work zone. This should be a quiet area, free of distraction, where your child feels comfortable and safe learning. Giving your child a say in the design of their work zone is a great way to empower children and be creative. This area should be fully stocked with all of the materials needed to get through a school day, such as pencils, erasers, math manipulatives, notebooks, headphones, login information, etc. If multiple children are working in the same area, noise-canceling headphones, earbuds, or even dividers can be helpful in creating privacy.
Keep Up With Rules + Routines
Whether moving back into in-person or virtual learning, there are going to be many new rules and routines that children will be introduced to. If transitioning back into the classroom, practice wearing a mask without touching, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and maintaining a safe distance from others is a great place to start. Without scaring children, ensure that they know what they are doing is going to help keep them, their classmates, and their teachers healthy and safe.
Also, it might be helpful to chat with your child’s teacher to see if there are any routines and rules that he or she would like for you to reinforce at home. This way, your family can maintain some consistency between home and school, making the transition much easier.
Take Brain and Body Breaks
It’s safe to say that children, regardless of where they will be learning, will have much less opportunity to move around this school year. If sitting for long periods of time is difficult for your child, build some time for movement into their schedule. Standing desks, exercise ball chairs, Bosu balls beneath their feet, fidgets, and alternative seating could be helpful tools if not a distraction.
By teaching your child how these tools will help make learning and focusing easier, children will learn to use different items as a tool rather than a toy. Introduce a few options and allow your child to pick one or two that work best for them. For more rhythmic movements, Go Noodle and Cosmic Kids Yoga offer some free, virtual brain breaks for children to take part in. These resources are available online and are easy to access.
Many parents share the same feelings about socialization and keeping their child home. Before you get too down on yourself or doubt your decisions, remember that social interactions in today’s classrooms will be much different from previous school years. With such limited interactions, it is going to be necessary to find alternative ways for your child/children to fill that part of their heart with friends. Many families have chosen to form micro classroom pods where a small cohort of children learn with each other in a public, open-air location with the help of a teacher or adult.
These pods are great if all parties feel comfortable with one another. If that is not an option, scheduling socially distant playdates, where children can still be around others while maintaining a safe distance is a great idea. Activities like tennis, bike riding, or even pen-pals can be fun. Zoom also serves as a great way for children to interact with each other. During lunchtime, schedule a Zoom lunch date with other children so they have the opportunity to talk and chat.
If choosing in-person learning, it might be helpful to start a collection of different PPE supplies for teachers. Schools are doing their best to provide everything in order to maintain a safe learning environment for everyone but it certainly helps to have some extras on hand. Sending your child in with personal hand sanitizer, extra masks, or even a package of Wet Ones for kids to use when needed is a great idea. Teachers often spend a lot of their own money putting supplies into the classroom for their students. A small collection for a gift card to a pharmacy or Target can be helpful for teachers who are purchasing items for the protection of their child is a kind and very appreciated gesture.
Most schools, if not all, are requiring some form of health attestation, which is a form filled out by parents and/or students that ensures that any child sent to school is in good health, not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19, or has been in contact with anyone who has been diagnosed.
If you are unsure, it is better to be safe and keep them home until a negative test clears their return. It is our duty to protect one another. Teachers and students with underlying health issues or for those who have family members with such conditions rely on your transparency and honesty.
Both Hoboken and Jersey City Public Schools have updated information on their respective websites about what is required for students.
Keep Up Patience + Understanding
We are all in this together, though we seem to be more further apart than ever. The school year, whether remote or in-person, is going to look a lot different than it ever has. It is important to remember, and remind our children, that these circumstances are not going to last forever and the situation will hopefully get better soon. This learning experience has taught all of us how to be more aware of germs but also how to appreciate the little things in life. Be patient and understanding with yourself, your child, their teacher, the school, and anyone else you come into contact with. We are all dealing with this in our own ways and we can sometimes forget that everyone has their own way of dealing with stress. Be patient and understanding.
We’re wishing everyone — students, teachers, parents, caretakers, and everyone else in between a happy, healthy, safe, and productive school year. Let this be the year that we prove to ourselves that we are capable of so much and that learning can happen anywhere!