This year, back-to-school feels like we’re all taking a test without a study guide or an answer key. To help wrap our heads around it, we reached out to experienced elementary-level teachers for some real-world advice.
As the start of the school year approaches, here are six important messages that teachers would like to share with parents:
1. Everyone is navigating this for the first time.
From region to region, “school” may mean something drastically different. Certain schools will return to a full-time, in-person schedule, some will be exclusively online, and others will be a combination of the two.
Even in these unexpected, unfamiliar conditions, you can count on teachers to dutifully carry out the new routines, schedules and safety measures that are put in place. This is going to require a sizeable amount of patience and flexibility, but thankfully, teachers are up to the task:
“We are here to fully support students and parents in any case scenario. We want to be in the classroom, but we need to do what is in the best interest of everyone's health.” - Mrs. Stevens, kindergarten
“Life has changed, things are different, and it is important to take things one step at a time. We will figure things out together, but we need to be realistic in terms of our expectations.” - Ms. Reynolds, grade 2
“It will take time to adjust to the ‘new normal’ and the protocols that seem to be changing daily. Our goal should be to look back on this experience and be proud of the actions we took.” - Mme Hutton, grade 2
2. Try not to sweat the academic side of things.
It’s true that some material won’t get covered, and the usual number of quizzes, tests and projects may not be completed – but those are not the most important things right now. The pandemic has affected all students, and teachers will make adjustments accordingly.
“It will take some time, but we will get there eventually. At home, encourage independent reading – not just to maintain literacy skills, but to provide enjoyment and an escape from everyday worries.” - Mrs. Arthur, grade 5
“Let go of the concern that your child will be ‘behind.’ Everyone is in the same boat. Teachers know this and will be working to get their students where they need to be.” - Ms. King-Mieske, grade 5
3. Everyone is going to have a tough day now and then.
As the virus has spread, so have feelings of tension, uncertainty and anxiety. In these challenging times, the emotional wellness of students and parents should take priority above any school assignment. Teachers appreciate effort and productivity, but they also understand that some days, it just won’t be possible.
“Take a break when you need it. No one needs to reach a boiling point or have a meltdown. You know your child best. Whether they are at a school desk or on a home computer, if they are feeling overwhelmed, they are not going to learn effectively.” - Mrs. Arthur, grade 5
“Kids should know that it is okay to feel sad, mad, afraid, nervous, bored or uncomfortable. Learning to identify and manage these feelings is a life skill. As adults, we need to keep a positive mindset and model resilience, especially in difficult situations.” - Ms. Reynolds, grade 2
4. We realize that home-based learning presents extra challenges.
As we all experienced in the spring, having kids learn from home is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an ideal situation. Teachers acknowledge this, and they feel your pain – especially since many of them are parents, too.
“During distance learning, I completely sympathized with parents who were feeling the crunch. They didn’t necessarily want the additional screen time required for e-learning activities, but they also needed something that would keep their child occupied while they tried to work from home.” - Mrs. Stevens, kindergarten
“Parents, please remember that there is no trophy for at-home learning. It is not more important than anyone’s health or well-being.” - Ms. Erb, grade 4
“Balancing school work and home life is difficult, so do what is best for your child when it comes to modifying and/or reducing the tasks. One assignment done with care and effort will be more instructive and beneficial than completing everything with haste and indifference.” - Mrs. Schneider, grade 4
5. Open lines of communication are needed.
Parent/teacher communication can be tricky during a pandemic, since we’ve been instructed to purposely stay apart from each other. Plus, if your child’s school is entirely online, you don’t have a pick-up or drop-off time where you can quickly check in with the teacher. Your best option: find out what method of communication the teacher prefers (for example, e-mail, phone, or class website message system) and keep in touch that way.
“You should absolutely contact the teacher if your child is struggling with online learning or other assigned homework. It should not be stressful for the child or the parent.” - Mrs. Flanders, grade 5
“If a letter, update, or other information is sent home, please read it thoroughly. So many of the questions we receive are already covered in the detailed message we have taken the time to write.” - Mme Hutton, grade 2
“When providing an e-mail address to the teacher, make sure it is an account you use and check regularly. Communication becomes difficult if families do not monitor their e-mails, and phone calls home may go unanswered because the number is not recognized.” - Mrs. King, grade 7/8
6. Teachers are people, too.
With one swift stroke, the pandemic turned every teacher’s world upside down. It became a juggling act of professional responsibilities and personal demands, balanced on a teetering unicycle of new technologies, all while trying to remain cheerful and upbeat for their students’ sake.
As we move forward in these unpredictable times, remember that teachers are human, and like the rest of us, they’re learning as they go.
“We are striving to provide learning opportunities that meet all our students’ needs. If we make a mistake, please try to provide feedback in a manner that is courteous and respectful.” - Mme Hutton, grade 2
“This is a time to focus on kindness, tolerance and helping others. It is not business as usual for anyone right now and we are all doing our best.” - Ms. Reynolds, grade 2
Teachers are accustomed to having all the answers, and in this pandemic, there are no easy ones. Luckily, the presence of these dedicated individuals – whether it’s actual, virtual, or a bit of both – means you and your child don’t have to figure this out alone.