It truly takes a village to raise a child, not to mention educate one. A recent report by the CDC highlights the importance of in-person instruction as a way for kids to get the educational attention that many of them need while building social bonds, which is part of the reason reopening schools this fall is now on the table.
In order to make the most out of this return back to school, parents have to do their part in taking care of their teachers, to make sure that they’re in turn able to take care of our children. With that being said, below are five ways that parents can help keep teachers safe and healthy once school starts back up.
Talk to your kids
School is going to be a lot different this year, so preparing kids for what to expect is key. The more students understand about the importance of safety measures like hand washing and wearing masks, the less time teachers will have to spend reminding them—and correcting unsafe behavior. As Dr. Dara Kass and Dr. Amaria Mollette explained in our live Q&A about back to school safety, one of the biggest risks to teachers in in-person classrooms will be students getting up and moving around instead of staying in their carefully distanced workspaces, so it’s important to remind kids that respecting the teacher and following the rules will be more critical this year than ever.
Kids take a lot of social cues from their parents. It’s normal to be anxious about your kids returning to school in the midst of the current health crisis, but keeping those anxieties in check while you have these conversations will help calm your child—which will help make teachers’ jobs easier. The Chronicle Herald points out that a great way to keep these discussions age-appropriate is to focus on setting up small rules that kids can easily follow, like wearing a mask or washing your hands to the tune of a song.
Communicate with the teacher
To make the transition to in-person learning as smooth as possible, teachers need to have updated contact information for each of their students. If you haven’t already done so, make sure to send a list to your child’s teacher notifying them about emergency contact numbers, people authorized to pick your children up after school, and the like. Having this information ready makes it easier for teachers to take care of your children knowing that they can easily contact you as needed. It also opens the lines of communication between you, in case they need to reach out regarding a behavior or health concern that might impact the classroom
It can also be helpful to touch base with the teacher to share a bit of information about your child’s study habits, personality, and any educational or medical challenges they face. The personal connection between teachers and their students is instrumental in helping them not only teach our kids, but to forge the kind of trust and respect that makes safely managing a classroom possible. Many teachers have said they’re worried those connections will be harder to make this year, because they’ll be communicating with the kids either through a screen or from behind a mask. So some details and a little personal info from a parent can really give that relationship the jump start it needs.
Make sure your kids come prepared
Teachers have to instill social distancing and hygiene protocols in school, but making sure your kids have the right tools beforehand helps make this easier for teachers. Familiarize yourself with all the school’s new rules, so you can ensure your child has the supplies they need. For example, Ohio has recently introduced a mask mandate for children returning to school, so it’s worth checking if there are similar mandates in your area (though many individual districts are requiring masks in at least some areas, like on buses, if not throughout all the school buildings). Some schools may have new procedures related to lunchtime, especially if they’re not permitting kids to eat together in the cafeteria. Remember to pack necessary items like hand sanitizer, masks, and tissues in your kid’s bag—and check that they have these each day before they leave for school.
But the most critical thing to check before your child leaves for school isn’t in their backpack. Each and every morning parents should check their child for symptoms, including fever—and keep them home if they’re symptomatic, no matter what. Perhaps the most important thing parents can do to help teachers stay healthy in the 2020 school year is making a commitment to keep their children home if they’re showing any symptoms at all. Of course that should always be the case, but most parents at some point in the past have sent their kids to school assuming a mild sore throat or sniffles would probably clear up before they even got off the bus. That might be even more tempting this year, given that so many families’ backup sources of childcare, if they had any at all, aren’t available—but to keep teachers and classmates safe, we all have to commit to keeping our sick kids home.
Remember to check-in with teachers
Now that school is reopening, teachers have to juggle health concerns alongside crafting meaningful lesson plans—a balance that’s undoubtedly difficult to strike. In fact, experts note that day-to-day worries about our health, family, community and finances can take a serious toll on our emotional well-being. This is why it’s important to regularly check-in with your teachers and make sure they’re doing okay. Even sending a small token like a quick note of thanks can make your kids’ teachers feel appreciated.
Be proactive about ways you can help
If you are able to, it’s worth asking your school administrators if there’s any way you can help. Whether it is by hosting town halls with fellow parents, organizing a collection of cleaning supplies for the classroom, or setting up fundraisers to bolster your school’s resources, finding ways to help the community at large is a great way to make sure your child’s teachers are supported during the return to school this fall.
As you prepare for the 2020 school year, regardless of whether you’re going back in-person or virtually, this new semester is bound to bring up a lot of unforeseen challenges. By supporting your teachers and looking at ways you can help as a parent, families and teachers can act as a team to make the year as safe and successful as possible.