Surviving the 2020-2021 School Year
On December 31, 2019, when the clock counted down, everyone was eagerly looking forward to the new year. It only took two months for all of our hopes and dreams to be dashed due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Once Spring Break hit, questions lingered about vacations, birthday parties, work, and school. So much was up in the air, but we all went into Mama-Bear-mode and did whatever we could to make sure that the last couple of months of school finished as well as it could. We all thought that come August or September, school would go back to normal, and the very rough and swift transition to distance learning would be a thing of the past. Boy oh boy, were we all so very, very wrong.
Our children have now been in school for six to eight weeks. Some are remote while some are hybrid. Some in person/on ground. Some are somewhere in between. Parents and teachers have a better grasp on things, but it is all still very challenging for everyone. As I think about how to keep the balance (and my sanity) between being a mom and a teacher, I am reminded of a few educational tips to help you survive the 2020-2021 school year.
We’ve all heard the saying, “reading is fundamental”. It really is. For those parents who are concerned about your young, emerging readers, read to them as much as possible. They won’t be getting 100% of the phonics and phonemic awareness instruction that they used to. A great way to supplement this instruction is to read to them daily. Reading the same books over and over will increase their fluency and comprehension. *Parents should frequently model fluent reading, reading at a reasonable rate and with good phrasing, intonation, and expression. I love doing voices when I read, and my son remembers when I do. He’s beginning to read a little, and he tries to use some of those voices and expressions.
As a middle school reading teacher, it is really difficult to get students to read with expression if it hasn’t constantly been modeled to them. As your kids get older, and they don’t want you to read to them, audiobooks are a great way to get in more reading while hearing proper intonation and fluency. Learning Ally and Audiobooks have a plethora of books at all levels. Teenagers can listen while scrolling through social media or riding to school.
Writing is another way to increase comprehension and even give moody teenagers an outlet to express their feelings in a healthy way. Middle and high schoolers should be writing as much as possible. Encourage them to journal or write in a diary. They can go “old school” and write letters to family and friends that they aren’t able to hang out with due to the pandemic. I recently got a birthday card from my nieces and nephew. It was such a small thing, but they could have easily written a couple of lines about what’s going on in their life to get in the practice. For all we know, this new normal will consist of more “old school” ways of living.
Math and Science
When we were in school, we all remember thinking that we’ll never use geometry or algebra 2. This may be true for some, but general mathematics and science is everywhere! (I use geometry often trying to navigate using my scooter through the streets of NYC.) You can help supplement these subjects by doing basic tasks around the house. Cook with your kids. Have them do the measuring. Let them experiment with some items that aren’t expensive so you don’t feel bad about throwing some food fails in the trash. And there’s definitely reading and comprehension involved in following a recipe.
Exercise, go on nature walks/hikes with your kids and categorize the plants or animals that you see on your hike. Watch the news such as the Bloomberg report and talk about the stock market with your kids. That’s really what they need to understand because we live in a capitalistic society. I watched the Bloomberg report with my 5-year-old, and they were talking about Netflix stocks. He understood Netflix and the down arrow on the screen, so we talked about what that arrow meant, and why Netflix needs it to go up. (Understanding symbols in math, science, and reading is important for emergent readers and English Language Learners).
We are living in a time to have valuable conversations about history, social studies, and social justice. Just recently we had Indigenous Peoples Day. What a wonderful conversation to have with your child about how you feel about the holiday being called Columbus Day versus Indigenous Peoples Day.
It’s an election year. There is so much to read, watch, and discuss with your child about what is going in America and around the world. If your child loves YouTube like so many do, there are wonderful videos on different aspects of government to watch. My students are currently reading Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime (everything kind of goes back to reading). This book is hilarious, but it also offers a wonderful opportunity to discuss apartheid and make a connection to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Everything you do at home with your kids will supplement what they may be missing from not being in the classroom seven hours a day/five days a week, so cut yourself some slack. You are doing the best you can. The only thing you can do to truly help your child be successful this year is to be ok with trying your best. Acknowledge that this is hard for you, the teacher, and your child. Make sure you have a little empathy for everyone involved. I know that I am trying to be more understanding and lowering my expectations a bit from what my students need to accomplish this year.
We are in a pandemic. Nothing is normal. It’s about progress not perfection, so be involved and engage with your child while you can. Hopefully we only have to deal with this for one more school year, so do the best you can. I’m here to tell you, as a mom, a coach, and as an educator, it’s all going to be ok. You will survive.
*Reference – Hasbrouck, J. (2006). For students who are not yet fluent, silent reading is not the best use of classroom time. American Educator, Summer 2006, 30(2).
Chon is my fantastic editor and more importantly my sister. She’s been a coach and an educator her entire adult life. She’s truly passionate about helping children achieve their educational best. Currently, she is in her final semester earning her Masters in Education (M.Ed. in Literacy) at American College of Education.