Though we had all hoped that the new school term would bring some respite from pandemic concerns, as the new school term is upon us, many of the same questions linger with students, parents, and teachers. And unfortunately, there are two constants that also remain. Confusion and increasing COVID 19 number across the country generally and within schools specifically. No two provinces or territories have the same educational plans in place and no situations are the same in terms of infection rates. Although students still tend to be less likely to contract the illness, they are still quite able to transmit it to those with whom they come in contact. Add to the mix the disparity between public and private education and you really do have a real dumpster fire, as they say. Almost all regions are offering some form of blended learning at least until the numbers are in after the holidays. Though things seem to be on the rise again, there is hope that the vaccines and other measures put in place after the holidays will see the numbers decrease before long. But of course, that too is just conjecture. After this initial phase, which again differs across the country, the plans seem to be tofollow the experts who say that what is best for children is in-class learning.
I can’t offer any insight into what is being done by the provinces, territories, school boards, or individual schools, but what I can do is offer a few suggestions to make a very difficult situation easier to deal with.
I was going to say go easy on yourself, but it really is a general statement. Everyone is dealing with different conditions and no two homes will be experiencing the pandemic and the return to school in the same way. So, go easy on yourself, your child, and the teachers. Know that just as you are doing your best, so too are the kids and the teachers. Do what you can and don’t sweat what you cannot do. Reach out to friends, family, or professionals to assist if necessary.
Though we are all busy with our work, as well as our parental duties, it is most important to keep an eye and an ear open to keep tabs on the kids. Some kids are absolutely flourishing with online learning. They love the daily schedule, the dress code, and the newfound freedom. They also are not missing the trials and tribulations of school life. Of course, others are not doing nearly as well. As a parent, keep the lines of communication open and make sure your child knows that you are there to assist. Results may not be as strong, but it is more important that kids remain mentally healthy.
No matter how easy it is to leave well enough alone and let kids do their own thing all day, activity, fresh air, and some R & R are also imperative. Make sure you get the kids away from the screen and out of their rooms for a good chunk of the day. Remember, they are used to travelling to and from school, from class to class, having breaks during the day, gym class, and just hanging out with friends being kids. No matter what their age, make time to let them just be kids for their mental well-being and yours. And, as with the previous suggestion, be part of the solution. Get outside yourself and give yourself some “me” time.
Return to Class
Whether your child’s school intends to return to full-time in-person classes or a combination, the ultimate decision to send your child is yours. And I know it is a hard choice to make. Most online or blended learning is not going as planned. Again, success depends on so many factors. From facilities to bandwidth to individual learning styles, there are just far too many variables to consider. So, you must make the right decision for your child. Hard as it may be one way or the other, this is an instance where you have to go with your gut and not with the crown. You will find experts to support every option there is, but the experts do not know your child or your unique situation. Think it through carefully, make your decision, and know that it is the right one for you and your child.
I know that this advice all sounds well and good. And, I am not in the thick of things, as both my kids are out of school. But I am working with kids and parents every day and hear and understand their concerns. Much of what I have offered is in direct response and the rest is actually from the same kids and parents. I am not suggesting that following my advice will be a cure-all. Every situation is unique and will require ongoing attention. What I can promise is that trying a combination of these insights with respect to your own situation will make a difference. We also need to remember that we are dealing with children and, well, kids will be kids. Their job, and ours when we were their age, is to test the boundaries and to see where there is wiggle room and elasticity. Granted the stakes this time around are greater, but they still think that they are immortal, again just as we did. Things will not go exactly as planned. Mistakes will be made and adjustments will be necessary. Just remember two things. First, you are doing your best. There is no right answer. Even with all the science taken into consideration, this is not an exact science. So back to point #1 – go easy on yourself, parents. And secondly, remember that teachers, administrators, and everyone at your school are in this for the right reason and that they too are doing the best that they can under the circumstances. They will make mistakes, but they will continue to adjust and adapt. So, be kind to them.