Anyone with school aged children would most likely agree that the past few months have been frustrating on many levels. First, the closing of the schools meant that our kids are now home all day. Second, the online learning programs adopted by the schools have somehow meant more work for the parents, and even more increased frustrations for all involved. Third, and perhaps the most concerning is what happens now? Our children have missed a third of the school year, and in many places, no one seems to have a clear vision forward. Each one of these issues alone, could have lasting negative effects on the future of children everywhere. When the school year began, who thought that these would be the challenges on our minds? The past four months have created more questions than answers and have placed new concerns on the shoulders of educators and parents everywhere. While no one knows what the future will bring, there are a few attainable goals that schools and parents can reach over the summer months to ensure that the educational futures of our children are not compromised.
- Train the Teachers! – Back in April, when schools were forced into online learning, most thought the situation would only be temporary. Most of the Jewish, Christian, and private schools figured they would be back to regular routines after the Passover/Easter vacations. Well, it is clear that all did not go as planned! When online learning was viewed as a stop-gap measure, many schools did not invest in providing proper training and support. Many teachers were handed Zoom accounts and other technical information and were instructed to “do the best you can.” Even in the best-case scenarios, it does not seem likely that schools will be able to forgo online learning entirely during the coming year. So, teachers and staff must receive better training in how to successfully teach and learn online. Some of today’s current leading online teachers, went through rigorous training and have logged thousands of hours in their virtual classrooms. Teaching online is not the same as classroom-based instruction. For schools that have struggled with online learning, proper training and support can help a great deal! The summer months are a great time to get the teachers up to speed. If your school could begin the next school year online, use the next few months to learn from your experiences. Remember, that we can learn as much from our mistakes as we can from our success stories.
- Add some “fun” education – Up until this point, our students/children have been focused on the “essential” subjects. While our kids do of course need to learn math and science, let us also remember that for many students, the extra-curricular activities are just as important as the academic subjects. Many students have felt a void in their online school days, as while the core classes have continued, often subjects like art, drama, computers, and physical education have been put on hold. While these subjects may not have the same impact on college acceptances, they are essential to a student’s growth and well-being. The summer months can be a great time to go back and reintroduce some of these activities. Whether online or in small groups, there are no shortage of activities and classes available. The chance to do something fun online, even for a few weeks can help to renew a student’s energy for the next school year.
- Don’t wait to get help! – There has been a great deal of talk about the educational challenges of learning online and of closing schools. We must also remember however, that change can take an emotional toll on students, parents, and even teachers. While classes may have continued online, children have been lacking the social interactions which are part of the school experience. On top of that, being at home all day, together with parents and siblings, can be extremely difficult for everyone. Let’s also think about what the teachers are going through. In one day, teachers had to completely transform the way they perform their job with little to no warning and/or training. The amount of prep hours that many teachers have spent is nothing short of unbelievable. This process has not been easy for anyone, and as human beings, it is important for us to acknowledge that sometimes we may need extra help. In our recent video podcast, Dr. Julie Fine, a noted educational psychologist, gave some advice for dealing with the new stresses associated with COVID-19. It is important to ensure for both our physical and emotional well-being that if our stress levels get too high, there is help available to resolve and manage the tough situations.
As we get ready to conclude the current school year, none of us know what the future holds. As educators and as parents, all we can do is try and make sure that our children are ready for the next steps, whatever they may be.