Be Up for the Challenge

It’s the middle/end of July, and many schools are starting to release their plans for the re-opening of schools. To say this is stressful would be to significantly underestimate the huge burden Covid-19 has placed on millions of people. Personally, I realize that no matter how we return to school, it won’t be perfect. It can’t be! There are too many unknowns that can’t be predicted. We can be sure of one thing, though. Our students and their families will need us when school starts.

Just about any person who I speak with is nervous about the future state of education. That’s normal considering the circumstances. Who wouldn’t be scared and even a little tentative, (okay, a lot tentative) about returning. With that said, I’m hoping that all of us are up for educating students. While I don’t have nearly all the answers, and others will offer other suggestions, I’m hoping that what is mentioned below can ease a bit of the anxiety.

Let’s make an honest effort to connect with our kids. Whether it’s virtual, in a traditional fashion, or in some kind of hybrid model, building those connections will reduce stress, ease the strain of starting the year, and even improve our mood. There isn’t enough space in this post to cover all the hundreds of ideas to promote relationships. But the simple act of introducing yourself and telling kids how excited you are to be back is a great start. No matter the setting, building those initial connections with students will be huge, and even necessary. Little things, like learning names, telling personal stories, and just daily hellos, will go a long way in transitioning into the year.

As a parent of two older teens, I’ve long appreciated when teachers have kept me in the loop about their progress. Anyone in education knows how important it is to connect with the parents/guardians of students. Still, today it takes on a special significance since so many unknowns will be happening. Letting parents/guardians know that you care, are here for their children, and will ALWAYS be supportive, may allow those who are scared of bringing their kids back to school to feel just a little better and more comfortable. Phone calls, emails, letters, and even videos if you enjoy doing them are great ideas. Personally, a phone call home is best, but I realize that it isn’t always possible.

Along with those relationships that we’ll be building, our conscious effort to have patience, persistence, empathy, and caring sets the tone for each day. Students will sense our willingness to make a difference when our personal side shows through. Realizing that all of us are unique to education, the easiest ways I’ve found to establish the four traits from above are merely modeling them.

Patience isn’t even a suggestion for these times. If you’re like me, you already saw in the Spring that lacking any patience will be a recipe for disaster. Just by taking a brief step back and recognizing the situation will help us understand the value in being patient. Going right along with patience is that fine line between hassling kids and showing a certain level of positive persistence. I found that if I wasn’t continually promoting students to work hard and stay determined, many would stop! The keywords, though, are “positive” and “promoting.” As a teacher of older students, hassling them, especially when we couldn’t see each other, would be a zero-sum game of frustration. Again, being persistent tells and shows parents and students that you care.

I’m guessing that many of you had similar situations, where you heard about Covid’s impact on students and their families during the Spring. It’s heartbreaking to listen to the stories that have affected so many families. Our ability to empathize can be the difference between students making it through these challenges and just giving up. When we show empathy towards our students, they will also be able to understand the difficulties we are having. It may not seem possible for younger people to show those types of emotions, but in different times, it’s incredible the kindness that you’ll see even in the most budding minds.

Lastly, and most important of all, is just being a caring person. Along with the other three areas, showing a caring attitude will enable and maybe even give hope to those who need it most. Remember, as we help our students and parents, they will reciprocate in kind. Thanks for all you do each day for students and their families. Have a wonderful day!

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