Back to School Tools– Fall 2020

by Annalisa Enrile
September 7, 2020

I have always loved the Fall and the Back to School season. This Fall 2020 however, the excitement has been muted in favor of other types of feelings- worry, feeling overwhelmed and disconnected and general anxiety. And, that’s just the parents! Kids are also feeling sad that they miss their friends and confused over what is happening in the world. It doesn’t help that the COVID19 pandemic in the United States has been so mishandled by Trump and his crony administration. What can we expect from an incompetent leader who puts incompetent people like Betty DeVos in charge of something as critical as education? In lieu of proper leadership, communities and families have had to fend for themselves. In this spirit, Keeping it 100 is dedicated to a whole month of education solutions and strategies from preschool to grad school.

One of my favorite activities of all time is shopping for new school supplies where the biggest decision was what binder to buy and how a notebook’s blank pages feel full of promise. I love that part so much that I still continue to buy supplies for my god children, even in these times of virtual education. Having the right tools, after all, is a must for any endeavor.

Technology Basics
One of the biggest concerns is technology and making sure every child has the right technology to participate. The first thing to do is to check with your child’s school for what they recommend and also what will be compatible with the apps and the programs that the school will be using. Also, some schools are able to provide equipment like Chromebooks or iPads to students so you want to take advantage of these resources especially if you have more than one child at home. The ideal situation would be for every child to have their own device. School is more than just their zoom sessions. They will have to use their devices for homework, independent activities and also for non-school things like games and streaming. Having their own will also help students feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for their schoolwork.

Connection is everything
You can have the right device but no connection, so that will put you back to square one. If you are unable to get high speed internet at home, you might consider purchasing a mobile hot spot which will get your device on line and be robust enough for your student to use for their virtual classes. Some communities are also setting up WiFi spots where you can go an connect though this might not be as convenient (and no one wants to attend class in a parking lot). There are also options such as outdoor cafes that might have wireless access. If this is the case, then make sure that your child has good earphones to block out the noise.

Good old fashioned school supplies
In the middle of all the technology that you have to set up, your student still needs basic school supplies like pencils and paper. Some companies like Yoobi have even created supply boxes that include everything students need from highlighters to paperclips. These supplies are a good way to engage your student and get them excited for school because there are many low cost ways that they can select their favorites. Keep in mind things that they might normally have in their classroom and make sure you have them on hand at home like art supplies including markers, clay and paint. Michaels often has sales on these items. If students do specialized study, make sure you cover know what you need for music lessons or other enrichment activities.

A room space of their own
While space is a premium in most households, try to create a dedicated space to your students’ learning. This can be a minimal as a desk or a corner of a larger room. Make sure that you have your student help create that space so they have ownership and pride in their workspace. Also, have all of their school supplies on hand so you aren’t searching right before a zoom session or in the middle of one! This dedicated space is also good because it helps to create a boundary between “school” and “home” that is important cognitively for kids and will lessen stress if they know where there “school” area is (just like it’s important for those of us working from home!). Fun extras that you can add are colorful and encouraging graphics, bulletin boards or even faux lockers (ie: bookshelves) to help simulate what they might have at school. Similarly, decorating in school colors or with the school mascot might help your little ones feel more socialized.

Not so basic
It’s a whole new way of learning that we are all embarking on so what might not be on the list is the healthy dose of grace you should give yourselves and your students. If it’s hard for parents, it’s probably doubly difficult for students who are also struggling with the socio-emotional losses like not getting to see their friends, have lunch together or talk to a favorite teacher in person. Leave the communication open so that your students feel comfortable talking to you and make adjustments as you go. Finally, don’t forget that learning should be fun so indulge playing, inspire curiosity and focus on the strengths that are happening instead of the challenges.