Tomorrow’s the first day of school. This day is usually an exciting time when you wear a new outfit, meet parents for the first time and see how the children have grown over the summer. It’s going to be a little different tomorrow.
We begin with distance learning exclusively in my school district and county. I didn’t know what I wanted to say to my teachers to encourage them, be inspiring, and somehow take this load from their shoulders. There has been a lot of concern, perfectionism, frustration, and overload.
Then I received a group text from one of my teachers that says it better than I ever could. “Let’s allow this school year to be awesome. Please don’t throw away or don’t throw a label or judgment on it before it begins. It may just surprise us in a big, beautiful way.”
I love this quote and intention. Big and beautiful anything demands strategies and skills. Here are seven things to do that will make these first few weeks of school awesome.
- Make a Schedule and Follow It
Please do not work 12-18 hours a day, seven days a week. Create a workday with start and end times then stick to it. Please write it down, share it with a friend or family member who will help keep you accountable. Remove your work email from your phone so you’re not sitting at dinner with your family checking emails. There is nothing so important that it can’t wait till the next day. Let families know that you will respond to their emails within eight hours, but not eight minutes. Please establish a schedule and a routine, and you will save your sanity.
- Focus on the Emotional Condition of All
Speaking of sanity, we are not the only ones that have been traumatized by distance learning and not being at a school site that we love. Our kids are in rough shape. They don’t feel safe, miss their friends, miss you, feel disconnected, and unengaged. They have forgotten what it means to be in a learning environment. They’re not school ready. So it’s essential to personally engage them in the beginning. You are on the front line with these families and children. We are the first ones connected to these students. Keep an eye on them. Look for who’s not doing so well, reach out to your admin because we’ve got great resources. And we have resources for you.
- The Relationship is Everything
I know we have a lot of fantastic digital platforms and interactive websites. Students will use these essential tools. They are, however, just tools, and nothing can replace a good old fashion student-centered approach. Remember to take the time to make a personal connection with each child, just like you usually do. Technology does not have to hinder this.
Here is a video with ideas on how to develop that relationship this first week.
- Get Comfortable with Mistakes
There are going to be a lot of mistakes. Education has always been a little messy. Teaching using distance learning is like a crime scene, super messy. The internet is going to go down. Your computer is not going to work. Have back-up plans if that’s how you operate or call it a day and start again later. Get into acceptance that things will go wrong. That’s a guarantee.
- Keep Your Eyes Open on Zoom
One of the areas that can go wrong fast is video conferencing using such platforms as Zoom. I find it a fantastic resource. It is our children’s future, as many of them will work remotely. They know how to use Zoom. So set those expectations early. Don’t allow private chats. All chats have to be either to you or to the entire group. It’s a recipe for nonsense and bullying not to have clear guidelines for security.
- Practice Forgiveness of Yourself and Others
I have a personal belief that no one is ever misbehaving adults or children. We all do better when we know better. So if your students are doing something that is just driving you crazy, you want to be slow down, take the time and teach them how you want it done. Model it, practice it, give positive reinforcement, and the unforgivable of teaching using video conferencing will lessen. You will need self-forgiveness the most.
- Stop Saying I am Fine
As educators, we try to hold ourselves up and pretend that we are fine, that everything’s okay, and it’s not. And when we don’t talk about what’s inside our hearts, what’s inside our head, our actions can turn into negativity, resentment, criticism, and complaining, which is not who we are. So I want to encourage you to do something that I do on the drive home from work. I will call a girlfriend, and I will say, okay, I don’t want any advice. I need you to listen. And I will talk and talk and talk and talk and talk until it’s all gone and it’s all out.
And then I can go home and am able to be present for my family and my life. One of the most valuable gifts that we have is each other, our community, our tribe, and our colleagues. So I want to encourage you to reach out and share what’s going on with you. The most important thing we have is each other and the relationship we share.
Happy First Day of School!