How to Get Ready for the New School Year

Educators, parents, and students face another unusual semester as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to interrupt normal classroom instruction. Many districts will start their semesters online, while some districts will give in-person instruction a try. No matter what families and school districts choose, we all want to start the school year as best as we can.
 
Here are some ideas for preparing for whatever lies ahead, whether you’re an educator, parent, or both.
 
Mental Preparation and Setting Expectations
How do you prepare for the unknown? If you’re a parent, consider having your child review what they learned last year: Skim through any old notes or files, list the subjects and what they remember from each, and consider reading the summaries for any assigned books. If you’re an educator, review how last semester went and think about what you can use again for the upcoming semester and what you can leave on the cutting room floor. No matter if your school year starts online, in-person, or a combination, figure out what ground rules you can set for your classroom and the behavior you expect from your students. You can even turn this into an activity you do with your students and come up with a contract, so to speak, that you all agree on and abide by. (For more ideas on this, see the “Set expectations” heading from “Back to School: 5 Tips to Start the New School Year Successfully” from Pearson.)
 
Whether you’re an educator or parent, practice wearing masks with your family and washing hands frequently. On the lighter side, pick a first-day-of-school outfit (or a shirt, at least, if you’ll be sitting down at home!). Set general goals for the year, but remember the situation is ever evolving. Flexibility and kindness are key.
 
Set Daily Routines
Quality sleep and rest are important to starting each day off right. Both educators and families can benefit from trying to set regular sleeping schedules and setting appropriate alarms. Additionally, designating specific times of day for study can add some much-needed structure to a time where many of us are spending so much time at home. Your family may even want to post a schedule on a whiteboard or calendar that everyone in the house can view. For educators, decide what kind of routine you want for your classroom so students know what to expect each day.
 
Don’t forget to add in time for breaks, snacks, physical activities, etc., and have some fun! It’s important that your students have a safe environment to learn. As nice as routines can be, educators and parents need to be ready to adapt based off their students’ needs. Don’t be afraid to shake things up!
 
Create a Work/Study Space
A study or workspace will look different to different people, but setting up a specific area of your home for these activities may help limit distractions and increase focus. Keep in mind the space doesn’t have to be permanent (noticing how flexibility is the key element here?). Comfortable seating, avoiding working from the floor or bedroom when possible, and creating individual spaces for everyone in the household are other helpful suggestions. You’ll also need access to outlets to charge electronics and an organized school supplies area.
 
Create Support Systems
We discussed the importance of building a community in your classroom in an earlier blog post. But there are other things both educators and parents can do to ensure support structures are in place. For educators, allow time for your students to get acquainted with one another and form bonds. Parents can encourage their children to partake in digital study group. Hopefully your district has plans in place for those families who don’t speak English or need help with the technology.
 
For such a stressful time, quality over quantity is going to be what matters most. A positive attitude, kindness, and gentleness will go a long way.
 
Plan for the Online Medium
In the article “Getting Ready to Teach Next Year,” the author talks about “look[ing] to the successes and problems of emergency online” to better prepare for the coming year. Insight from educators and students helped craft the strategies mentioned in the article.
 
This spring, as everyone pulled together to implement “emergency online,” we repeatedly heard the  sentiment “we’re all doing our best.” As we face a school year like none before, we hope educators and families remember that because it’s still the case. For more detailed ideas of some of items in this blog post, click here.
 
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