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Things That Surprised Parents & Teachers About School This Year (So Far)

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Back to school this year has been... different. No matter how your school is handling everything, the experience of returning to class has surely been far from what you expected. There are so many things that surprised parents and teachers about going back to school this year, for better or worse. While things may not be ideal, it seems the silver lining in all of this has been the discovery of everyone's ability to adapt.

Being flexible and going with the flow isn't easy for everyone, which has been evident since everything changed back in March. It's been months of unknowns, ever-evolving guidance, and blurred lines between parents and teachers and boards of education. In a way, though, these past few months have helped condition people to change their expectations for the norm, especially when it comes to school.

No one really knew what they were walking into this back-to-school season, but students have been rolling with the new routine the best they can. As they've gotten into the swing of things, parents and teachers alike have found themselves surprised by both positive developments, like student attentiveness, and just the general day-to-day behavior of students. Here are some of the things that have surprised them the most.

1. Her Kindergartner Didn't Miss A Beat

"My kindergartner didn’t flinch when it was time to start school via Zoom. I was more disappointed by the loss of normal kindergarten than he was." — Christina Dunbar, mom to a 5 year old in virtual learning

2. How Well Students Are Social Distancing

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"We are a hybrid of in school and virtual. Honestly I am shocked at how well the kids are doing with the masks and social distancing. The kids are just so happy to be back in school and despite all of my reservations about going back it has done my heart so much good to be back with my kids!" — Joanna H., Elementary Special Education Teacher

3. Her Kids Expected Her To Be Better At Tech

"Kids miss school, especially the social aspect, but they seem less affected by it than we (the adults) are. I found the best things I could say to my kids was, 'I'm not your teacher, I'm here to be a helper,' so they would stop blaming me over technology issues." — Michelle Johnson, mom to a 10 year old and twin 7 year olds in virtual learning

4. Not Being Able To Meet Teachers

"For me, I am disappointed with how the school year has started. I know it is only verbiage but parents are now referred to as 'visitors' and are not allowed in the building. We didn't get to meet the teachers and, being new to this school, it does make it uncomfortable." — Lisa Emrick, mom to 10, 8, and 6 year olds attending in-person school

5. The Teacher's Accessibility

"How well my son has managed the transition! He is way more engaged than I thought he would be, and handling it way better than me. His teacher is also really knowledgeable on technology and she is there 24/7 to answer questions, which I wasn't expecting." — Courtney Swett, mom to a 5 year old in virtual learning

6. Having To Resort To Worksheets

"I’m shocked at how quickly we have devolved into worksheets — just because they are easy to do electronically. It’s terrible teaching practice and I fear we are drowning the children in work, and burying ourselves in the process. I’m mourning the loss of good teaching methodology more than just about anything else these days, because it feels like I’m swimming upstream to do good work instead of just lots of work." — Elizabeth Meyers, 7th Grade Language Arts Teacher

7. Her Children's Behavior

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"I can't believe how well my kids listen to their teacher's instruction, sit still, and follow the rules while they're 'in class.' They never act this way for me." — Katy Samson, mom to 6 and 9 year olds in virtual learning

8. The Importance Of A Planner

"My daughter forgot to turn in a quiz during her second week in school. After that, we got her a hard copy student planner and it's helped both of us stay on track with assignments." — Holly Bolton, mom to a 10 year old in virtual learning

9. The Lack Of Playtime

"My daughter is attending a new preschool in-person. While originally excited (albeit nervous) about sending her, I was mostly excited for her to make be around people her age and to make new friends. It didn't dawn on me until a few days in that the kids don't actually get to play with each other (due to social distancing rules). Yes, she's learning and seems to enjoy it, but when she gets home she's starving for one-on-one attention, and it's a heartbreaking to realize she's not getting that during the day."

Anne V, mom to a 3 year old attending in-person preschool

10. How Happy Kids Are To Be Back

"I was worried students would be scared to come back to school in person, but they don't seem to be. They're just happy to be with their friends again." — Emily C., Second Grade Teacher

11. The Realization Of Her Pre-COVID Behavior

"I learned that I was much more lax on the wellness requirements before COVID. I'm doing a signed health screening every day now and realizing that there were probably more times than not that I gave some Tylenol and hoped for the best. I feel really bad about that too." — Beth H., mom to a 3 year old attending in-person preschool

12. The Joy Of Watching Her Child Learn

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"I was really surprised by how quickly my 1st grader adjusted to wearing a mask all day. She has cerebral palsy and has some neuro-differences and it still wasn’t nearly the big deal people made it out to be. I think adults forget that children have people telling them what to do all the time and generally most kids listen... I’ve also been very surprised at how engaged and outspoken my 7th grader is in online school. I have such a unique opportunity to really witness what a school day is like for her and it’s been so fun to hear her so engaged and active in her own education." — Elisabeth Williams, mom to a 7 year old attending in-person school and a 13 year old in virtual learning

13. Her Public School's Handling Of The Situation

"I was surprised by the public school system's poor response to the situation. I’ve chosen to send my kids to private school this year because the classes are much smaller, the facilities are safer and the Covid protocols are exceptionally well-thought-out." — Jen S., mom to a 9 year old and 12 year old in in-person school

14. Her Daughter's Flexibility

"I was surprised at how well my daughter took the changes in stride. She now has to have her temperature checked and wash her hands at an outdoor station when we arrive; Mom and Dad have to say goodbye in the parking lot and can't come into the building; and her teachers are masked all day. I thought she would be freaked out because this is a lot of new stuff (on top of the change of going back to daycare after three months) but she's 100% unfazed." — Mary G., mom to a 4 year old attending in-person preschool

15. Her Kid's Love Of Online Learning

"My 5 year old loves Zoom classes!" — Annie Finkenbinder Best, mom to a 5 year old in virtual learning

16. Attendance Turnout

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"Today was day one of distance learning and I was only missing 2-3 students per class!!" — Tammy E., Middle School Teacher

17. Needing To File For An IEP

"My daughter has struggled with reading since kindergarten and has been in the reading program for 4 years. With distance learning, she’s not able to complete the bulk of her work without intervention from me and we’ve had to file for an IEP so that her grades don’t completely tank. I had read articles before school started about concerns for parents with special needs children, but didn’t think twice about how our experience would be. In hindsight, I should’ve realized that we fit into that category, even though my daughter has never been in the special education system. This is extremely difficult for any child with any sort of learning disorder, and while I would never want school to be in person unless it were safe, this has been a huge struggle for us." — Taylor Janca, mom to an 8 year old in virtual learning

18. The Value Of Socialization

"What struck me most is how much I had previously underestimated the value of socialization for a toddler. I originally had working mom guilt over sending my son back to preschool, but his gross motor and language development had become stunted while he was stuck at home with us. Four days back and he was walking, running, and exploding with new words." — Kerry Littmann Bryant, mom to a 2 year old attending in-person preschool

19. Confidence In Teaching

"I am surprised that I feel like I am good at what I am doing. I feel like I am building great relationships with kids both in person and virtually and I can tell that kids are learning! I went into this year expecting it to be a total disaster and I have been proven wrong. I know things could still get weird, but I feel like I am prepared for closures, full virtual, etc. and that I can give my students a rich, meaningful experience no matter the platform!" — Lauren C., Elementary School Teacher

20. Her Daughter's Attitude Change

"Last year [my oldest] really hated doing the Zoom meetings, but this year she has been so engaged and excited about school. I know she misses the social aspect and will be happy when she gets to go back, but so far she’s not complained about it as much as I thought she would." — Meghan Wheeler, mom to a 4 year old attending in-person preschool and a 7 year old in virtual learning

21. Masks Are A Fun Fashion Statement

"I was really surprised by the extent to which masks have become a fashion statement and an opportunity to express individuality! My 11-year-old daughter spent several hours the day before her first day of school painting designs on masks for herself and her friends. Especially since she wears a school uniform daily, her mask is an opportunity for her to express her individual style." — Jessica L., mom to a 7 and an 11 year old attending in-person school

22. Students' Love Of School

"My first grade students are all so happy to be at school. I’ve never experienced this level of love for school routines etc." — Catherine Jones Keating, 1st Grade Teacher (in-person school)