On any given year, back-to-school shopping lists are filled with supply requests from teachers. But this year, things are undoubtedly different. In the middle of a global health pandemic,
what teachers need from parents this year — more than ever before — is support. Sure, you may still opt to send hand sanitizer by the bucketful, an industrial-sized box of tissues, and 208 individual glue sticks so that no kid has to share, but teachers this year are in need of more than just classroom supplies.
Regardless of whether your child will attend school in-person or virtually, their teachers will need your help to ensure that the entire process works for everyone. After a
long few months of distance-learning in the spring, I'm sure I speak for more than just myself when I say that I now have a whole new level of appreciation for just how hard teachers truly work each and every day to make sure our kids are safe, loved, and learning as much as possible. Supporting teachers however they need it is priority number one this school year.
While each classroom, each school, and each teacher will have different needs, these ideas from teachers about what they need from parents this school year will help make the transition easier for everyone.
Ninth grade biology teacher Jaime Bohon tells Romper that above all else, she needs parents to be flexible this year. "No matter what way the year looks — face-to-face or virtual — this will be a trying year for all," she says. "It’s uncharted territory."
As an educator who will likely be teaching both online and in-person, she says her teaching style will have to change this year and that will be an adjustment. "I love collaboration in the classroom, but that’s not going to be allowed this year," she says. "I’m going to be so far out of my comfort zone and I definitely don’t have all the answers on how it will change through out the year."
When it comes to supplies, Amanda Wakefield, a campus instructional coach at a Texas high school, tells Romper that each teacher will have different needs. "I think the best thing parents can do is just talk to their kids' teachers and ask them specifically," Wakefield tells Romper.
Because each school will provide different things for each classroom (some of which won't even be known until they start), it's best to ask your child's teacher about their specific supply needs. "Material-wise, many teachers are setting up Amazon wish lists and parents could definitely reach out to the teacher or search their name to help," Jamie Roy, a kindergarten teacher in Georgia tells Romper.
When it comes to preparing for this school year, teachers could use help from parents to ensure that kids know what their duty is once inside the classroom. "Make sure kids understand that this year may look different, but that their teachers and school staff are still there for them just like any other year," Wakefield tells Romper. "They may have different rules that the kids need to follow, but it's important to listen and follow the rules to help everybody learn."
First grade teacher Sydney Pierce tells Romper that she hopes parents won't put too much pressure on their kids or talk badly about school reopening in front of them. "I had kids last year already scared about dying from COVID. This was back in March," she explains. "Obviously make kids aware, but don’t scare them. Try to stay positive. Remind them that the things we are doing are to keep them safe. I want my students to feel safe at school, not scared."
Casey Smith, a high school language acquisition teacher, explains that flexibility, patience, and understanding are all key traits parents can utilize to support teachers this year. Even if parents want to know specifics about school reopenings, they'll need to be patient with teachers who (through absolutely no fault of their own) may still not know themselves. "I think the biggest issue right now is that teachers just don't know," she tells Romper. "A lot of teachers don't know if they'll be in a classroom, online, what the new rules will be, or what will be expected of them."
Teach Your Kids Their Passwords
It may seem like a small thing, but Pierce says teaching your child their usernames and passcodes for technology at school can make a huge difference when it comes to stopping the spread of germs in schools. "In the younger grades, they rely heavily on teacher support to type," she says. "Teachers will have to help 20-something kids and touch all those iPads."
To help teachers avoid this, have your kids practice typing in their technology login at home. They may already know these from distance learning last spring, but a quick refresher will help their teachers out.
Donations of Lysol spray, Clorox wipes, and hand sanitizer may seem like an obvious answer to the question of what teachers need from parents, but in the midst of a health pandemic, these supplies are even more appreciated than normal. "They're always needed," Pierce says. "I’m sure they are impossible to find, but if a parent donated some of those, I would be thrilled!"
"Honestly, more than any material items we need patience, flexibility, and understanding, because while we may be in the school building, it will definitely be different," Roy says. "Teachers, especially kindergarten teachers, are racking our brains to figure out how to take all of the safety recommendations and still create an engaging and stress-free environment for these kiddos."
Teach Littles To Open Lunch Items
This may seem like another common sense thing to do, but for parents of younger students, it will be especially important this year. "We spend a lot of time in first grade opening kids' lunch items," Pierce tells Romper. "If we have to help them open things, our hands are potentially touching something that they will put in their mouth. So either practice opening their lunch items or packing kids' lunches in easy-to-open containers."
At the end of the day, teachers may not even know what they need until they start teaching during this unprecedented time, so it's up to parents to show a bit of grace as the year unfolds. "Mostly, just be supportive of what the teachers ask," Wakefield says. "We are all walking on uncharted territory and we won't have all the answers, but we will use our best professional judgement given the circumstances."