Hey, all you cool cats and kittens! Amanda here this week to talk to you about something near and dear to my heart: back to school.
Back to school is always a big deal in my house. And not because I have a deep and undying love of shopping for cute stationery (although that is 100% true). But because, although you guys know me from things like “that silly post about social distancing” or the plethora of poop jokes that land in your inbox, when I am not writing dumb stuff on the internet I’m actually a teacher.
I’ll give you all a moment to grapple with the idea that the woman who spent hours coming up with as many panda puns as she could muster for an email is also shaping the minds of tomorrow… Okay, we good? Moving on.
When September rolls around my house and my life get infinitely crazier. Usually, it is good crazy. I litter my office with materials for the first day, brainstorm and plan, and attempt to tame the summer chaos that has taken over my home before I return to the classroom.
But this year, things are a different breed of crazy. And I’m walking back into a world that looks VERY different than when I last left my classroom. Honestly, I don’t even really know what I’m walking back into…
…and that kinda, sorta, absolutely terrifies me.
And I know I’m not alone. Whether you are a fellow teacher, a parent, or one of the amazing support staff that makes a school run, we are all feeling some kinda way about returning to school.
So I thought I would share how I am coping with and planning to survive this unusual back to school season.
Survival Skill # 1: Make Good Choices
Was I the only one whose mom used this one as a personal mantra?
Like, seriously, the woman should have had it tattooed on her somewhere… except that wouldn’t have been a “good” choice.
Now I know this one might feel a little unrealistic since it feels like there is not really a good choice to be made in this situation.
Keep the kids home? What about their social development and mental health? And my job?
Send the kids to school? What about their health and the health of our family? Will going back in these conditions stress them out?
It all kind of feels like you are choosing the least terrible option. But that is what good looks like these days.
Luckily there are some good tools out there to help you out. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has put together a really comprehensive Decision Making Checklist to help parents. They’ve also compiled a bunch of great info to help address common back to school concerns. You can find it here.
What’s important for us all to remember here, is that there is no such thing as a perfect choice. Until this all blows over, we will all be trying to mitigate and decide on acceptable levels of risk. So whether you choose virtual, hybrid, or in-class learning, as long as you are doing your best, following the best information you can, and doing what is right for you and your family, you are making good choices.
Survival Skill # 2: Keep it Together
I mean this both mentally and physically.
And, again, I realize that this is easier said than done.
Some days I feel solid as a rock. I have accepted the “new normal” and am determined to thrive.
But kids take their cues from us, so as parents and teachers, we need to lead by example and show our kids how to navigate stress and emotion.
Acknowledging that we are all stressed and uncertain and discussing that with kids is a really good idea. But we also need to make sure that we check and manage our own stress and mental health so that we can help our kids do the same.
One thing that helps me keep it together in any back to school season, is getting organized. It helps ground me and keeps me from getting overwhelmed. And that is more important than ever this year.
So I am extra pumped to have gotten my hands on some of Lil Helper’s new Bite Bags. These reusable snack bags are going to be so handy for any kind of back to school plan.
If you or your kids are going back to school, these bags are great for sending both snacks and sandwiches. They save on waste, are easy to wash, and easy to use. They are also just the right size for packing other school supplies or small essentials and have dedicated space on the label to write your child’s name so they don’t get misplaced.
If you are opting for at-home learning, these bags are still a great organizational asset. You may suddenly find yourself with a lot more manipulatives, loose pieces, learning kits/sets, and supplies than you are used to. Using bags to keep everything straight will mean one less thing to worry about as you muddle your way through an experience that is likely new and stressful for you.
As someone who isn’t naturally organized at the best of times, I find that making sure I have the tools that I need to set up simple systems can keep me keep it together and focus on what is important.
Survival Skill # 3: Expect the Unexpected
Any parent who has ever left the house with their children knows that it is usually best to try and plan for every possible eventuality.
And the same logic holds true for back to school.
This could mean sending your child with a Dry & Wetbag loaded with a change of clothes and their indoor shoes.
If you have older kids who may need to worry about getting their period while at school, our new Combo Bags are perfect for making an “emergency kit.” You can load them up with tampons, pads (disposable or reusable ones like our HyPs), pain medication, and other toiletries and essentials.
Our Zipper Wetbag is also a good option for storing some extra hand sanitizer or other potentially leaky gear that your kiddos may need.
A lot of the stress of this back to school season stems from uncertainty. But making sure your kids walk out the door prepared can help you feel more in control, knowing that you have planned for what you can.
Survival Skill # 4: Mask Up
Questions around safety are the biggest reason that most of us are freaking out this school year.
Luckily, our old pal science has some help for us on this one. And science says that physical distancing and wearing masks are both really effective ways to keep each other safe.
Schools in different jurisdictions have a wide variety of plans around this but sending your kid with face masks regardless of your school’s policy is one way to help manage some of this year’s back to school stress.
It is also important to teach your kids how to manage and wear their masks. Our Combo Bag makes a great BFF for your masks. You can store clean ones in the front and dirty ones in the back. This creates a nice simple system for both you and your kiddos, making mask wearing a breeze.
Survival Skill # 5: Breathe
Preferably deeply and slowly.
I know that sending your kid to school right now might feel like you are truly sending them into a game of “Survivor.”
But kids are pretty freaking resilient. And most of them are too excited about going back to school to be stressed. They have months of catching up to do with their friends.
Plus, I’m sure the youngest ones are excited about the prospect of trading with Tommy for his way cooler mask…
All kidding aside, and speaking for teachers everywhere, we will get through this. I don’t know any group of people more capable of adapting and overcoming than teachers. And we will always do our best to make sure your babies have the best.
Because parents and teachers have one key characteristic in common: when things get crazy, we take a breath and do what needs doing for our kids.