As if returning to school wasn’t stressful enough, Covid is now complicating the lives of students, teachers and parents in unforeseen ways. To help you and your child navigate that new reality, we asked a handful of teachers for back-to-school tips in a pandemic.
Survey shows parents’ concerns about sending their kids back to school
First, it’s important to understand the “New Reality” of heading back-to-school in 2020. Some parents are considering homeschooling their children for the first time. Others are deciding whether to send their children in-person or virtually. In a recent survey of 2,000 parents conducted by OnePoll, in partnership with our parent company Crispy Green, found 43 percent thinking about homeschool. Roughly two third of parents had health concerns for their kids, something that a healthy diet can help alleviate. In 7 Nutrition Tips to Build Your Immune System, we discuss ways food can help you potentially ward off illnesses. Another 61 percent worried their kids won’t practice safe hand washing. Even though most parents said they’d educate kids about personal hygiene, they are still concerned. Most parents want a back-to-school plan with: increased Covid-19 tests on-premise, temperature checks, smaller classrooms and social distancing enforced.
Flu, drownings and car accidents pose greater risk
Some experts argue that the risks are exaggerated, as the data show that children aren’t major transmitters of Covid and are a relatively low risk of dying from it. They are at a much higher risk of dying from drownings, car accidents and even the flu, with children under 15 being 6.83 to 20.07 times more likely to die of the flu than Covid, according to the CDC. Still, children with comorbidities face higher risks, and people fear transmitting it to more susceptible friends, relatives and teachers.
To help quell parents’ back-to-school angst, we turned to some K-12 teachers for advice on how they can help their kids transition based on their experience from the spring lockdowns. Here a few suggested dos and don’ts:
Students attending virtual school during a pandemic
If your student’s back-to-school plan is attending virtual classes, designate a “school” time and an area to get work done, several teachers suggested. Also, tackle assignments right away. One high school teacher says procrastinators in his class stopped handing in work last spring when all the grades were set to pass/ fail. This obviously backfired, and while getting caught up in one class, they got behind in successive others. The takeaway: make sure your student is actually showing up for class. Most virtual programs will take attendance. Stay on top of daily assignments with your child, especially if they’re prone to get distracted and get behind. Don’t hesitate to call or email your child’s teacher directly or set up a Zoom meeting to discuss issues.
Show up to Zooms
Above all, be sure your student logs into the Zoom conferences, whether they are required or not: “Face to face Zoom calls and check ins are so important!” said one teacher. If you’re attending remote school, it’s even more important to reach out if you miss a concept and need extra help. One teacher suggested parents of struggling students request an aid to Zoom with your child to help them with their work. “This may not always be possible but it’s helpful when it is!
If you have a younger child, “Be flexible with your child and their school!” a teacher says. “Allow your child to work when it works for them — if it’s nice and they want to play outside, let them play and work later!” says a teacher from Cresskill, N.J. “We’re all doing our best and understand that this is difficult! Open communication with your child’s teacher will often solve many of the issues.”
Online learning can be especially challenging for students with learning disabilities. Teachers recommended several sites for parents worried their children might fall behind as resources: They include: Raz-kids, Newsela, Khan academy, Google classroom, RelexMath.com and abcya.com
Students attending in-person school in a pandemic
Students going to the classroom are advised to follow the rules on masks and social distancing. Teachers also ask them to be prepared for potential closures and quarantines in case of Covid outbreaks. If that happens the key word is accountability. “Just remind the students that regardless where students are, in school or home, they still need to remember that it’s school and that it’s necessary,” a teacher says. “Allow flexibility for the student but keep them accountable.” “Be open with discussions with students that this is a possibility,” another teacher says. “Keep them informed and have tools ready in case of at home learning.” Another teacher muses that there might not be a way to prepare 100 percent for any of this. “It’s all uncharted territory.”
Final words of advice from teachers:
Many concerns weigh on teachers’ minds. A teacher from Churchville, N.Y., lists them off: “The health of our staff and children, the ability to give quality instruction with a hybrid model and helping parents/ children and teachers adjust to this new learning style.”
“This is just as tough for us as teachers as it is for everyone else,” comments a teacher from Hoboken, N.J. “Just remember that teachers are people too, with families and loved ones. We are not babysitters and our safety should also be a priority to the parents and government.”
Ultimately, parents are key to helping students navigate the school year. A teacher from East Rutherford, N.J., advises parents to lead by example with an upbeat attitude because “they will react based on how you are handling the situation.” So to quote the British wartime maxim. “Keep Calm and Carry On.” –Patty Yeager