Back to School Tips During a Global Pandemic

During these crazy times, it is easy to find multiple points of view on “the best way forward.”  Whether you have chosen to homeschool, go totally virtual or follow your district’s schedule, the following tips can help to make learning during this time more successful.  My tips come straight from my clients, colleagues, and other experts in the field who have been rigorous, forthright, and eager to share ideas so that all can benefit.  Feel free to contribute any ideas that are working for you by visiting my Facebook page and commenting on this post.  

Create a learning lab.  If you have not done so already, consider creating a “learning lab!” One of my innovative clients in Texas created a learning lab room that was as simple as connecting the laptop to a large screen tv and pushing a table in front of it.  Voila!  The effect was her bright, wiggly, boy was not scrunched up at a small computer screen.  Instead, he felt he was sitting up, engaged in video conversations, and was able to use the table to write, create STEM projects, and have all of his materials nearby!

How to:
  • Hook PC up to a large screen and put a table/chair in front of it.
  • Stock up on colorful supplies to make learning fun
  • Have water and healthy snacks available.
  • Consider a rolling shelf unit or special cubby to store supplies
  • Consider a motivational chart to earn mutually agreed-upon celebrations for accomplishments.

Work with your PTSA to develop a plan to support teachers.  A Junior client who attends George Washington is getting curious about how she can support all of the teachers in her school by making sure they have meals, childcare, and other items during these difficult times.  

How to:

  • Reach out to teachers to understand what they might need to make virtual learning success for your students.  
  • Commit to citizenship by contributing in some way to the important issues our society faces around equity, inclusion, and anti-bias.  I am recommending you make this broader as equity is below.  
  • Consider creating a giving circle for your school.  Another student in my practice created one in which families participated in protests and many are meeting on a regular basis to discuss challenges around equity and education. 
Use the Dining Room table for debate, connection, and mental health checks!  Mealtime is such a great opportunity for connection. 

How to:
  • For some of my older students, I recommend discussions about news and politics and encourage considering All SIDES.  
  • We know that most students are prone to stress and anxiety right now, so using this time to discuss “rose” and “thorns” of the day can be a way to express feelings in a safe way.  
  • Develop Table Topics as a way to create new connections/ this can result in deeply loving and connected exchanges.  

Monitor, Monitor, Monitor.  One of the hard things for me that has occurred during these crazy times, are the increased calls to my practice regarding children involved in social media scandals including pornography, sexting, and cyberbullying.  Students as young as eleven years old are finding themselves in unsafe situations and most would be preventable if parents were monitoring their phones.  

How to:

  • Please take the time to watch this video created by East High School PTSA to learn about the importance of monitoring SM and some ways in which to do
  • Consider apps that limit social media usage during the day
  • Set up phone/electronics charging in a common room at night and encourage reading before bedtime.
Be Playful.  Remember: Children learn through play.  Many parents are concerned about academic growth for their young children.  In all of the chaos of the pandemic, it is important to remember that the way young children learn academically is through play.  Children who play are better problem solvers, collaborators, and become imaginative thinkers. 

How to:
  • Create time each day for free play and provide materials such as blocks, puzzles, dress-up clothes, fort-building materials. Af cardboard refrigerator box can entertain for weeks!  
  • Create an “art space” in the home where kids can get messy.  Provide crayons, playdough, primary color paints, and brushes, and large rolls of paper.  
  • Create a “book corner” and display books so that children can see the front of the book and set “quiet” reading times throughout the day.  
  • Fill a basket with musical instruments and sing along to favorite Music Together songs or other children’s albums that you love!  
  • Stock up on math game materials such as dice, cards, tokens and math manipulatives. Young children are concrete thinkers and need visual and multi-sensory materials to thrive.  Play math games to solidify learning. 

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