Navigating Education in Unprecedented Times

Ayana Dixon
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MINT HILL, NC – Shopping for the first day of school was surreal. For the first time in my 12 years as a mom, I threw the list of school supplies out the window. Brand new backpacks, glue sticks, and binders gave way to brand new laptops, dry erase boards and earbuds . . . lots and lots of earbuds!

The beginning of the 2020-2021 school year is unprecedented. Parents, students, administrators, and educators are facing unsettling circumstances. Institutions of learning from preschool all the way up to college are taking various approaches to educate our students. When schools closed in March 2019 due to COVID-19, educational institutions were ordered to close their doors. This required schools to find alternative ways to educate students. On July 14, 2020, Governor Roy Cooper announced that schools in the state of North Carolina would open under Plan B, which allows schools to operate under limited capacity. Districts across the state of North Carolina also have the option to operate under Plan C, which allows continued instruction through remote learning. Schools are not allowed to operate under plan A, which would have all students back at school with no social distancing in place. Many schools in Charlotte have already opened under Plan B, and many more will be operating by the end of August. 

What does this new normal mean for families? Parents? Children? What about our educators and administrators? Leaders in the field of education have had to juggle many logistical issues such as transportation, government funding, and staffing. Teachers have had to find different ways to create a community and connect with their students. The shut down in March, near the end of the 2019-2020  school year, gave parents, students, educators, and administrators an unexpected glimpse into what was to come for the 2020 – 2021 school year. Private, public, and charter schools had to put a plan in place to accommodate their communities. Some have chosen Plan B, while others, Plan C. 

Regardless of the choices that our educational institutions have made, there is an air of uneasiness. There are many families that have taken a leap of faith this school year with the decision to homeschool their children. One thing is abundantly clear. We are all concerned about the education of our children. How can we ensure that our children are engaged and motivated to learn this school year? 

Here are a few tips to navigate the beginning of the 2020 – 2021 school year:

  • Have a formalized schedule at home. Create a schedule for the entire day. It will relieve stress and free up brainpower. Your children will fall in line with the schedule you create. Kids love routine.
  • Create a workspace free of distractions. Whether your child is a remote learner, attending a school enforcing limited capacity, or a homeschooled child, a designated space to learn is important. Create a space that inspires creativity and encourages engagement. 
  • Create a sense of community in your home. Give your child responsibility around the house. It’s important that they feel that they are making a contribution to the household. 
  • Plan downtime. Playtime should have parameters. If we don’t set limits on downtime, our children wind up being very tired the next day. 
  • Have dinner together. Families have various dynamics: parents working two jobs, parents working the third shift or going to school, and single-parent households. Finding the time can be tough, but it can be done. If you aren’t able to eat dinner together every night, try every other night or once a week.
  • Have a game night. Bring back the board games you used to play as a child. Connect with your child, and let those handheld devices charge for a bit.

I believe that these tips will help to support your child academically, physically, and emotionally. It will create a sense of stability in the midst of these unpredictable times. 

What can we do to support our teachers and administrators? Understand that they are feeling the pressure of educating our children and managing their own lives. Be patient. Be available to communicate with teachers. Everyone is doing the best that they can. Mint Hill has a close-knit education community. Let’s continue to support one another. 

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