Return to Learn…

As a third pandemic disrupted school year I know we all hoped that the new school year would bring some respite from pandemic concerns. And although numbers are down and vaccinations are up,  many of the same questions linger with students, parents and teachers. And unfortunately, there are two constants that also remain. Confusion and controversy. In fact this morning, I am reading about school closures due to COVID in P.E.I. and ongoing discussions about how to deal with those among us who can’t or won’t get vaccinated. 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 the multiple variants out there and we really do have a real dumpster fire on our hands once again.

Be Kind
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, this year. 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. Above all else, be kind.

Activity Matters
Not all schools are offering co-curricular activities just yet. Walking the dog today it was good to see some teams practicing, but that isn’t going to be the case everywhere. Remember, though they back travelling to and from school, from class to class, having breaks during the day, gym class, and just hanging out with friends, being kids, they are still doing so in the midst of a pandemic with masks on for the most part. 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.

Head Up, Stick on the Ice…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 will step back into school as if they were never away. They will be active in class discussions, chatting happily with friends, and just generally getting on with it. Of course, others are not doing nearly as well. The freedom and lack of social interaction last year may have been both a blessing and a curse making reintegration this year more difficult than usual. As a parent, keep the lines of communication open and make sure your child knows that you are there to assist. Academic results may not be as strong, but it is more important that kids remain mentally healthy.

Return to Class
Most kids have returned full time to in-class learning, but there are still those who are learning fully online or in a blended situation. Though most online or blended learning hasn’t gone as planned things are improving. 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 based on the options presented to you. 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 crowd. 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.

As I did last year at around this time, I am only offering some suggestions based on what I am seeing. 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. However, 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 working with on a daily basis. 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 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 is 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.

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