“Back to school” has a very different ring to it this year. Many aspects of beginning a new school year are dramatically different from how they’ve ever been. Anxiety, fatigue, restlessness, and stress are our unwelcome companions. All of our lives are different in some ways. We need to acknowledge that, but also remind ourselves that there are some things that are predictable, that can be anticipated; this can help us not only weather uncertainty and ambiguity but give us some comfort.
Many districts, dioceses, charters, and private schools have already begun the year. Some have postponed for another couple weeks. Depending on where you live, students may be back in the school building, periodically back at school (some days you’re there, some days not), having school online from home, or even some combination of all of these.
Perhaps your school or district hasn’t yet figured out what’s going to be the best way forward. Each community struggles to map out what will work best given the myriad factors that make up a school (geography, demographics, types and locations of communities, how many and what kinds of schools exist, faculty, staff, parents, community), not to mention the number of cases of the virus in your area.
What worked and what didn’t? Reflections and strategies for Students and Teachers
Regardless of this year’s design, YOU are starting something new! That’s exciting even though it’s also nerve-wracking. How have you gotten ready? Certainly after finding out (or waiting to find out) how your schedule will look, YOU are the one who can shape the start of the year as well as map out successes throughout the school year, however and wherever it takes place.
You now know, after having been at home for school in the spring, how things worked or didn’t work for you. What can you do differently? There are some things in your control…
Using some of our problem-solving strategies from our Summer Solutions books (yes, math can help!), you can make a list, guess and check, look for patterns, draw a picture or diagram, use a table/make a table, use logical reasoning, work backward, and/or make a model in order to see a situation more clearly. Not all will appeal to everyone, nor will each one fit this situation, but there are several of these methods that can benefit you and bring insights you might not have realized were possible.
Here are some strategies to help students through the first couple weeks, as they and you get settled in this very different new school year.
Make a List
This helps organize our thoughts so we can actually “see” what we know and don’t know. Some possible ways to do this are on the attached handout.
Make a Table
What I can control, what I can’t control—we must acknowledge what life is like now, BUT we need to also see (by writing it down) what we can do in whatever situation we find ourselves, whether at home, school, or a combination of both.
Draw a Picture
This might be good for younger students, although art is therapeutic for all. This can clarify what our inner life is like without the use of words. What are your feelings, thoughts, concerns you have about this school year? How might you “see” them? What color are they?
An alternative to this would be putting our senses to good use: If there were a taste you could describe that captured your feelings, what would that be? How ‘bout a sound? A texture?
Look for a Pattern
Seeing whether we developed certain patterns last spring and whether those were helpful or not can keep us from getting into patterns that we want to avoid. We can always begin habits that help us succeed.
These strategies provide a framework for understanding what you’re going through. They can clarify what’s “real” from what isn’t, acknowledge stress, fears, and concerns, and help establish a focus on what you can do, and what routines might work best to help you succeed.