Getting Kids Excited for First Day of Virtual School

Academics, Engagement, Possip / /
kids virtual school

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Help your kids to get excited.

2020 isn’t the year we wanted, but it is the year we have. And virtual school isn’t what most parents wanted, but it is what many of us have.  Our kids deserve to be able to look forward to the first days of school – even if we, their parents, are feeling uncertain, overwhelmed, and skeptical. Whether their first day will be virtual, in person, or part of a hybrid model, we can help them still get excited.

So how can we get our kids excited? Here are some of the things our Possip team members are doing.

Believe that great learning can happen, even virtually – or in a face mask.  

Let’s be real – the Spring was a mess. Many parents are struggling to look past that and envision a different future. The reality is, looking forward, great learning actually can happen – even virtually. So instead of saying, “my kid can’t learn virtually” – ask, “what would it take for my kid to learn virtually?” And explore with your kids’ school and district how virtual learning might look different now than it did in the Spring.

Some parents just want to imagine a “normal’ start to school. Remember that normal is subjective – and susceptible to time and context.  That is to say whatever we consider as “normal” now at some point was abnormal. Big schools that had sports teams and a large marching band?  That would have probably been odd to imagine in schools 120 years ago. So let us embrace a new normal. 

Now, with that, we need to remember the history of humans. And that is to say great things can happen in many ways – in a normal or a new normal. Humans adapt and adjust – and remember you and your family can and will too.

Your kid can learn and excel on a computer. 

They can learn and excel in a face mask and with frequent hand washing. 

Your student can learn in a Zoom room. 

They can learn outdoors.

It may not be the BEST way for them to learn. In the spirit of adaptability though, it may be how they are going to have to do their best to learn for the next little bit.

Now let’s be honest – your optimistic thinking will not magically turn the challenge around. And I don’t want to minimize the very real challenges before us. 

What We Are Seeing

Just through our Possip reports alone we hear stories from parents who are visually blind and trying to navigate virtual learning, non-English speakers who are trying to help their kids learn English, essential workers who can’t be at home during the day, and families struggling with COVID who can’t take care of their kids during this time. 

We hear stories of kids with asthma who may struggle to wear face masks.

We heard from parents of kids with special learning needs who felt abandoned as they tried to help their kids develop their social and academic goals.

So this isn’t to say that life will be easy.

That said, we do want you to be able to celebrate “wins” and positivity where you can – because you are your kids’ hope and optimism.  And you will give your kids some hope and some belief that their school experience can be a good one.

So what are the top tips for parents?

1. Celebrate the start of school like usual – kinda.

Many folks have fond memories of going to Target or JC Penney’s or Wal-Mart or the local drug store in anticipation of the first days of school. Limiting going out doesn’t allow for that as much – but you can still get first day of school outfits for your kids, or have them pick out something special to wear from their closet! 

I had my kids go online and gave them a budget to pick out a first day of school outfit and school supplies for their virtual working space.  My 10-year-old daughter has gotten into the 80s this summer (I told her it would be an 80s summer this summer where they would have lots of unsupervised time – and that has translated into her listening to lots of CDs – Madonna, Prince, MC Hammer, Kool Moe Dee). I digress!  For her first day of school she decided she wanted to dress in 80s gear and spent many days finding the perfect parachute/hammer pants and t-shirt (a Selena Como La Flor shirt). 

Our kids – even in quarantines, global pandemics, and general chaos – still have developing personalities and interests. Give them a chance to celebrate it as usual. Let the quirky and interesting shine!

2.  Plan for (safe) in-person socializing during virtual school. 

During a global pandemic, a little in-person social interaction can go a long way. We think about how we reduce risk as much as possible – so playing outdoors, with one or two other kids, and socially distanced – can go a long way. Maybe your kids can meet with another kid or two for lunch in person outside. Maybe in-person school is off the table but gathering outdoors for soccer or baseball is possible. As they start to be able to visualize a day that isn’t just being inside in front of a screen all day, they can start to get excited. And you can too!

3. Celebrate the small stuff. 

Your kids want to get excited.  Seriously.  It’s kinda just how kids are designed. Help them tap into their childish nature. When my daughter heard school was going to be virtual you know why she was disappointed? She wanted to see everyone in their face masks. I say that to say that even if the idea of a school full of kids in face masks is a bummer to many parents, kids can see the excitement in it. So let them! No matter how your kids are returning to school, find ways to celebrate! 

Hey! You’re going to school half the days? Won’t that be cool to have school at home and in the building?

We’re doing virtual learning? That will be so interesting to see what it is like for your class to meet AT HOME!

Hey! You’re going to school in person? What do you think it will be like to {insert unique change}? 

4. Plan and practice the routine

In a traditional first day of school you might walk or drive to the bus stop to make sure you know where it is.  Your kid would lay out their clothes for the first day.  They may even try to do a tour if they were headed to a new school to try not to get lost on the first day.  Plan and practice your routine too! 

  • Make sure the desk area or their sitting area is set up. Here is a link to a great set of ideas by a mom for how she set up her kid’s space. We’ve seen parents put a sheet of paper with their child’s name above a seat at a dining room table to differentiate their space.  You don’t need a lot of space, you just need a special place.
  • Practice logging onto the virtual classroom the night before.  First you do it as a parent, then you all do it together, then have them do it by themselves.
  • Help them think about what time they will need to be awake to be set up at their computer.
  • Plan what they will do during their “down” or asynchronous time.  Will they do their asynchronous learning immediately?  Or can they do it over the span of the day?
  • What’s the plan for lunch?  Start thinking about some great (and easy) lunch plans.  Maybe for the first day you help them make a special lunch, but help them plan to make their own lunch thereafter.  

Now remember, this is intentionally about how to get kids excited about the first days of school. There is a time and place for us as parents to articulate our stress, frustrations, and the impossibilities of what is in front of us – and let’s not forget our country’s teachers and educators. 

For now, let’s give our kids some hope in their future. And find some ways to celebrate.