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Seven Keys to Success for Returning to the Classroom in Fall 2020

No matter where you are, it’s no secret that Fall 2020 is going to look, feel, and be different. The work that our teachers, administrators, students, and families put in to make the virtual transition in the Spring was nothing short of remarkable. Looking forward, though, as we continue to adjust during the rise of COVID-19, there’s plenty of work to be done. Schools are working around the clock to finalize their reopening plans, while our attention now turns towards how we make the transition back into the classroom. sySTEMic flow has compiled our "Seven Keys to Success", everything you and your students need to safely and effectively pivot back into learning. Whether you’re preparing for in-person classes, logging onto Zoom lectures, or a combination of both, we’ve got you covered to take the Fall by storm.

1. Bring the classroom to them Regardless of what your school district’s plans are, our homes are going to continue serving as our offices, gyms, and yes, classrooms; so, why not make your home feel more like one? Taking the time to customize and modify your environment can help sustain your focus, and the little things go a long way. Seat cushions or even cozy computer chairs can do wonders for making your days more comfortable. Calendars, whiteboards, and posters up on the walls can help create a more organized, productive atmosphere. Even just keeping the area clean can make a change, like utilizing folders and file cabinets to ensure everything has a place. The goal is to create a space that serves your child’s needs, allowing them to feel comfortable, focused, and able to continue learning from wherever they are.

  • Check out a variety of organizational storage and resources available on Amazon

  • Staples' back to school sale is starting soon! Make sure to sign up for their mailing list

2. Establish a routine Adjusting to quarantined and now socially-distanced life has shown us just how important structure can be. Staying cooped up inside with idle time can be tough, making us feel unmotivated or like we’re falling behind. Taking the time to establish a routine goes a long way in regaining control of our days. Seeking out various apps and mobile tools is a great start, many of which are already built-in. Reminders and Notes can be a really simple way to keep track of goals and manage deadlines. Systems like Google Calendar can go further, allowing students to formally map out their responsibilities, color-code by type, and organize priorities. Beyond the basics, though, living in a digital world gives us the advantage of tapping into a plethora of apps and platforms that can help us stay on track. Trello is just one example of a project management service, great for big deadlines and group work. Check out a video demo for Trello below, as well as another article linking a wide variety of free and easy apps available. Finding what works for them and sticking to it is essential for students, and can help them make great strides in getting the most out of their days.

  • Watch a Trello service demo

  • Have a look through this compilation of time management apps

3. Communicate with teachers Now more than ever is the time to open up and establish a dialogue with our teachers, who continue to adapt to circumstances just like we are. This is key for anyone, whether you're a student who may regularly struggle in the classroom or not. Making this transition means everyone is going to find themselves in unique spaces personally and academically, so be open about this. Encourage students to reach out to their teachers and be honest about sources of confusion, anxieties, and general concerns. From there, they can sit down and make a plan of action to address needs on a case-by-case basis. Even asking for syllabi and purchasing books in advance can be a great way to stay ahead and get off on the right foot. Make sure students feel comfortable enough to take initiative and work one-on-one with teachers in the months ahead. 4. Use online resources to ramp up their studying game Once back in the classroom, making up for lost learning while keeping up with new material is going to be a challenge. Don’t hesitate to tap into the endless supply of online resources that can help students grappling with all of this material. Services like Quizlet and Kahoot are perfect for retention, providing interactive and game-like sessions that present the information in an exciting way; odds are they’ve even used these in class. For courses that need some deeper levels of practice, services like Khan Academy and Bozeman Science can provide full-length videos, lecture notes, and practice problems to reinforce lectures. Paul’s Notes is a great resource specifically geared towards math, while Wolfram is a widely-used platform that can assist in complex problem-solving. Check out all of these resources and be sure to work with both your student and teacher to find the best options. 5. Virtual study buddies Whether for work projects or happy hours, services like Zoom and Webex have become our new lifeline to the outside world. For students, they can also make up for the loss of person-to-person connectivity. Encourage students to form study groups just like they would in any normal school year, and transition this to Zoom meetings. This is a fun and simple way for them to help each other stay on track while also sustaining their own friendships. It’s important to keep this collaboration going, helping students learn to collaborate with one another and explain things in ways others cannot. Note: be sure to verify age restrictions for video conferencing platforms. 6. Seek out tutoring services to help fill in the gaps Even with all of the available resources, it’s likely that some students will still need extra help filling in the gaps. While we at sySTEMic flow offer an array of tutoring services, there are also plenty of other alternatives that may be just as good for your student as well. Pie R Squared is a great Boston-based company providing a variety of virtual tutoring capabilities, while Kumon Math and Russian School of Mathematics provide the same on a larger scale. Squaring away a tutor can be a tremendous help for students trying to get caught up while also moving forward. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the teachers themselves--they can often have a great list of recommended services that align with their lessons. Especially in these times, it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that students are returning at vastly different levels, and that making this transition has to happen according to their unique needs. Have a look at some of these services below.

7. Take time to focus on mental health Perhaps the most important of all. Investing in mental health is something all of us can take a page out of, and students are no exception. It’s important to sit down with your child and recognize that amidst everything going on around them--the pandemic, classroom transition, social life, college conversations--there are going to be stressors, anxieties, as well as general ups and downs. Establishing dialogue is key, in addition to finding and adopting methods of working through these. At the most basic level, diet and exercise go a long way. Encouraging students to start running, take up yoga classes, or at-home workouts are a perfect start; many of these are free and easy to access. You can even get creative with things; Youtube videos with 7-minute exercises or dance battles with friends and family are a fun way to keep moving while taking a necessary break from the day-to-day. There are also endless possibilities with the world of meditation and breathing practice, crucial for any student to take up. Apps like Headspace and Calm provide a wide variety of customizable sessions tailored to their needs. Newer to the scene is an app called Liberate, a meditation service with guided sessions specifically designed for members of the BIPOC community. Check out some of these services and talk with your child about what might work best for them.

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