My normal blogs about returning to school after the holiday break involve me giving advice like, resume your family’s normal bedtime routines a few days early, or pack lunches in advance to avoid stress and rushing that first Monday back.
However, as another COVID related lockdown is pushing return to school dates later into January, it’s fair to say we’re in a bit of a different world. So, I have some very different advice for parents and families this year.
1) Try to practice Radical Acceptance in the face of all of this uncertainty. Radical Acceptance is a Dialectical Behavour Therapy concept that asks us to accept the difficult things in our lives that we cannot change. We don’t have to like or agree with these things, but accepting that they are what they are can bring us a sense of peace when things seem chaotic around us.
As we head into another uncertain school year, it is most important to make sure our children feel safe and loved and know that the adults in their lives (parents, friends, and teachers) care for them and will be there for them no matter what.
As a teacher who has been working in-person in a special education classroom since September, I want all of my students to know how much I miss them and wish that we could be learning together in the classroom. I know that I must accept that we cannot do that right now, but I can plan and look forward to when we can do that safely and ensure that my students know I am still here for them (digitally).
2) As we enter this next phase of digital learning my best piece of advice is to Communicate Honestly and openly with your child’s teachers and let them know what you need. One of the most frequent conversations I’ve had with friends and family during the last year goes like this:
Friend: “Ugh! I wish my kid’s teacher was doing ________!”
Me: “Have you told them this?”
Friend: “Well, no....I don’t want to seem rude/pushy/unkind…”
Me: “Can you please tell them?”
The best work I’ve been able to do as a special ed teacher during this pandemic has been with students and families who were brave enough to tell me exactly what they needed--be it a daily phone call, a video of me solving our math problems, paper resources dropped off in their mailbox, or even me backing off and giving them some space to figure out how to make virtual school work in their lives.
Don’t be scared to be honest and to give teachers your feedback or ask for what your child needs. This is all new (and overwhelming) for us too and we care about our students and want to do the best for them.
I wish everyone the best in 2021--we are all in this together and I believe that acceptance, caring, and honest communication can get us through this next tough patch successfully!