In the past, the first days of school sparked anxiety around these types of questions, “Who is my child’s teacher?” or “How will my child transition from middle to high school?” With former President Donald Trump out of office, a government where bipartisanship is a curse word, and where COVID-19 eclipses everything, today’s first days of school conjure new forms of anxieties that are paralyzing parents with fear.
Parents are treating sending their kids to school with the mind-frame that it is a life-or-death move, and to think about it; it really is. Nonetheless, many parents and students will reluctantly confront these elements and go to school in various forms. Whether the schools be virtual, parochial, charter, magnet or private in nature, there are a lot of universal things that parents and students can do to prepare themselves for today’s brave new education world, but all they really need to do is R.A.P.
The R in this acronym stands for REFLECT. Before families begin to get into the flow of school, the first thing they must believe about all challenges is “this too shall pass.” Not only do they need to become philosophical, they need to tap into their spirituality to spark the positive attitude necessary to engage the school year. As stated previously, fears about COVID–19 double the anxiety that many families currently have, so mental health needs consideration in this reflection process. Parents should take an accurate account of their children’s mental health.
First, let your children know they are loved and supported, let them lead open and honest communication about their lives, watch for and address behavior changes, and model healthy coping skills to deal with problems. Parents should also monitor their own mental health. Understand, that it is important to seek counseling where there are deficits in life. For example, if people are suffering financially, they should seek help from a financial advisor. Reflection can give families the courage to face the educational climate without fear.
Next, families need to ADJUST. There is a saying that, “No man steps in the same river twice…the water is constantly moving, and he is not the same man.” Education is based on knowledge which changes every day, and families must keep up. Also, rules, policies, and practices that were relevant last year may be deemed ineffective today. There are too many times when educators hear, “it wasn’t like that last year.” Families have to adjust to this pace.
The best way for them to do this is to learn their district and what it has to offer. They should research who to contact to handle certain issues. Once they find out this information, they should not only hold these officials accountable, but they should also remember to be an ally of the school and hold their children responsible when necessary. It is important to remember that school officials are the professionals, but they are also human. They are under the same pressures as everyone else. They have to know that the families trust and are working with them.
Once the reflection and adjustments are made, PREPARATIONS have to take place. Understand that failing to prepare is preparing to fail. The best way a family can prepare is to set educational goals for their students to achieve. For instance, several states offer the Hope Scholarship which is granted to all high school students who maintain a 3.0 grade point average. It is extended through four years of college as long as the GPA is maintained.
Parents should prepare and focus their students on getting this scholarship as a goal. Preparation comes about when families understand what a district has to offer as far as benefits and resources and in turn mold their students in that direction. Another way for families to prepare is to get all contact information from teachers and work as a team with the teacher. This sets the tone for both the student and the teacher and it helps foster a better relationship. Education is a precious resource that helps young people succeed. Parents have to model and lead young people through the process, so that they are ready for life. R.A.P. is one way to help.
Dr. John McMillan is an assistant principal and administrator who has worked in public education for more than 20 years. Ten of those years he served as an English teacher, and five as the Smaller Learning Community Coordinator. Dr. McMillan is dedicated to serving all students in an effort to increase their self-awareness, self-efficacy, and self-reliance while assisting them in reaching their goals of graduating from high school and becoming global citizens of society.