Author: Stephanie Haynes, Life and Leadership Coach
This school year is poised to be unlike any other with a disruption no one saw coming. Survival is essential, but how?
Most of us have been back in school for at least a week. After months of intense discussion, weeks of multiple, often unclear, surveys, daily unproductive-seeming strategy sessions, and hourly frantic conversations with fellow parents, school has finally started up again.
How's it going for you?
For decades we have relied on school as a way to both get a break from our kids and allow them to learn from experts in their fields. It was good, creating a balance of sorts to our life so that we could work and pursue personal passion projects while also serving as housekeepers, caretakers, chauffeurs, and chefs.
This year (so far) that is no longer an option. Instead, most parents of school-age students are now tasked with using the majority of their time and energy to make sure their kids are able to learn and remaining engaged and on task, while also balancing all of their usual responsibilities both in and out of the home.
It can be like trying to balance 10 different spinning plates in the air while also balancing on an inflated exercise ball: nearly impossible to manage well.
As a former homeschool mom and classroom educator I understand the struggle well. There never seems to be enough energy to go around and more often than not it's easier to just give in rather than try to make everything work.
Don't give up. You CAN make this work.
One thing I have learned over the years is that how we approach anything with our students matters. I survived homeschooling and teaching high school students the art of writing well using the following three strategies:
Start with training your student in the behaviors you want them to use. All of this is new for your student. Take some time each day to train them in the way you want to be interrupted, or in how to manage their assignments, or even in what to do when they are done with their work but you aren't. Assume they do not know what you want and help them understand the new expectations.
Set clear boundaries for meeting expectations. Positive reinforcement is good, and so are consequences. A healthy schooling environment has both. Discuss both with your student and ask them to come up with their own (within reason, of course). Then, each day, offer rewards for met expectations and administer consequences for poor choices. The more you remain consistent to the boundaries you create, the more they will remain within them.
Offer grace freely to your student, their teachers, and yourself. Our students will not behave perfectly for us each day. Teachers will not administer perfect lessons each day. We will not have the perfect attitude each day. No one is perfect. In that view we can offer to look at each other with grace and believe the best about each other and ourselves. When we do we give everyone space to breathe and try again.
This school year may not be like any other, but that doesn't mean we can't learn how to navigate it well in order to not only survive but thrive!