Back to school will be outside students’ comfort zone

Frank Carrano

These last days of August have traditionally been the time for back to school activities.

Getting ready for school has always been an important family event. Some new clothes are usually in order, and selecting the perfect shoes are especially important. It’s really part of the anticipation of a new beginning as our children prepare to embark on their annual learning adventure.

As a child, I can remember getting a new pair of shoes which were purchased after a view through the Xray machine that showed your foot ensconced in the shoe.

And, young children were also given pencil boxes which contained all the little tools needed for school; some pencils, of course, crayons, eraser, and always a protractor. The books which we were given, on loan from the school, were expected to be covered with something that would protect them. I always used a large brown paper bag which when cut open, could be made into a very serviceable cover. Of course, everything was so much simpler then.

Fast forward to this year, and we understand that school districts are being faced with some very difficult choices about the whole concept of school itself. Everything we have come to associate with being a student in a school building is being reevaluated in the context of the pandemic.

I served on the Branford School Board for 10 years, and I know how difficult this important decision is right now regarding how to open school this fall. There are so many issues to consider and the many regulations to observe make the choices really difficult.

In or out of school, things will have to be different this year and the way students are taught will have to be reconsidered.

Nothing can replace or be as effective as in school, face to face instruction; teachers and students interacting and engaging each other in the learning process.

As a teacher myself, I understand the power of learning within the context of group dynamics and hands-on activities. So students will be back for some of the time, and I hope that whatever plan that’s developed will be as safe as possible for students and staff alike.

On the other hand, distance learning has also proven to be effective within certain areas of instruction. I heard a professor from a business school the other day who offered the premise that universities will need to figure out how to streamline their operations in order to keep higher education costs in line within realistic financial parameters. He was suggesting more online courses with fewer students needing to be on campus as one cost saving option.

But public schools have the responsibility of offering a free, effective learning opportunity to all eligible students in their district, and that makes the challenge more daunting.

One advantage to using technology as a teaching venue is that most students are very comfortable with and understand how to access information through electronic devices.

A simple smart phone can be utilized as a learning tool, and an iPad is just about all you need to bring the curriculum home. Most textbooks now have electronic versions which make them easily accessed and transferable.

I wonder how we all might help during this transitional period. As parents, you should allow for the quiet time necessary at home when school “is in session.” Even others of us who don’t have school age children should, whenever we can, encourage students to view this as an opportunity rather than a disappointment. We know that even on those days when they are in school, there will be changes in the usual routine, with student interaction kept to a minimum. Remind them that many others are still working from home and being productive in spite of that.

We’re all waiting for the promised vaccine which we hope will provide some protection for us all. Meanwhile, putting a positive spin on all of these interruptions into our comfort zone will help everyone make the best of it.

Connecticut Media Group