Back-to-school this year looks different district to district, school to school. Some hallways will be bustling with students again for the first time in nearly two years, while others have been full for some time. Yet despite disruptions, schools continue to be central to community life.
We can’t say when we’ll be in the clear with COVID-19, which means your teachers and staff will need to continue to be agile, adaptable, and available for students and their families. Along with supporting mental health, including students who are anxious about returning, consider how your team can also support your broader community by building, maintaining, and strengthening bonds. These connections not only lead to individual student success, but create a culture of learning and growth as well.
With the right resources, teachers (and coaches and social workers) can do this work at a classroom or small-group level. Even amidst uncertainty, here are some ways you can empower your staff to cultivate the connections that students need to thrive.
Open houses for school parents, guardians, and siblings are always a great opportunity to show off students’ routines and goals, as well as review school and district policy. Understanding teacher expectations helps generate buy-in from students’ support networks. When in-person visits aren’t possible, whether because of health concerns or scheduling conflicts, it’s also possible to create that same sense of family engagement in the classroom through digital tours. When teachers have a tool like Remind, they can simply text a link to a livestream of a teacher- or student-led open house that can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection, no matter where they are. This can also be recorded and shared on Remind for families who can’t attend live.
Schools and districts often have open-door policies for family visitors who want to have lunch with their children, sit in on their child’s class, or volunteer. This hasn’t always been feasible for all parents and guardians, particularly households in which all adults work, and now in-person visits may be discouraged altogether. Many families made the best of remote learning and used it as a chance to glimpse and support their students’ school routines and learning. By leveraging this familiarity with “zooming in,” teachers can foster engagement by inviting interested parents and guardians to join in classes via video or hosting a digital lunch. This allows even adults who weren’t at home with their children for e-learning to “be there” in a meaningful way over a work break. As with other digital events, parents can receive Remind links via text just before the event and connect directly from their smartphones or another internet-enabled device. And with two-way texting, parents can volunteer skills like sharing tours of their jobs, teaching a lesson, or taking part in small-group discussions via video.
Encourage teachers and coaches to share successes big and small. Did the high school chess team make it to the state championship? Elementary students meet their reading goals? The middle school football team show great sportsmanship (even if they didn’t make it to the playoffs)? Let your community know! Parents and guardians may not be able to make it to the game or come in to lead a read-aloud, but the community that supports your students wants to celebrate them. And these small celebrations show that, despite changes and setbacks, school is still a place their children thrive. With Remind, it’s simple for coaches, club leaders, and teachers to compose a quick text or share a picture to highlight these successes while students are transitioning or at recess. And two-way communication means that parents can also quickly reach a teacher to convey congratulations or put good news on their radar.
Remind also allows for SMS messaging, which is especially effective at keeping families looped in without smartphones or easy internet access. They can receive celebratory text updates even if video chats or in-person visits aren’t manageable. We plan to continue being optimistic about the 2021-2022 school year, but remember to stay on top of the latest expert suggestions for keeping your students, their families, your staff, and your community safe. Plans may need to be adjusted and shared as new data becomes available. That said, schools will continue to be a place that goes beyond academics. They are a center of social life and development and a place to gather, build connections, and find support, particularly for children. Even with changes that might range from masks to classroom sizes, empower your team to show that some things are—and will stay—the same. Remind Hub equips your district, schools, staff, families, and students with a communication platform that’s quick and accessible. Connect with us to learn more about how we can support you in your transition back.