School in 2020: Advice from an Elementary School Counselor
Tell us a little about you:
I am Jessica Bradshaw, a professional school counselor for PK-6th grader in Richardson ISD. This year will be my 8th year as counselor. Previously, I taught kindergarten for 3 years. My passion has always been counseling, but I truly enjoyed my time in the classroom. In addition to counseling, I have a food, fitness, and lifestyle blog, where I sometimes share resources for emotional well-being for adults and children. (loveyoumoretoo.com)
What are the best ways to help my child get ready for school?
First and foremost, stay positive. Your child senses your uneasiness and it’s important to be encouraging. Whatever version o
f school you choose for your family, try to be enthusiastic and optimistic. Be careful not to have adult conversations where little ears can hear. Foster a growth mindset. We can do hard things. Whatever you decide for your family will be challenging because it’s different. However, we can do this. Remind them that everyone is in the same boat together and we are all on the same team.
On the other hand, it’s equally as important to validate their concerns. “I know you’re worried about what school looks like. It’s new for all of us, but, remember we can do new things.” If it seems like your child is struggling more than you expected, reach out to your school counselor. We are here to help with this.
Stay in touch with what guidelines your district has set for in-person learning and begin talking with your child about that now. Practice hand washing, social distancing guidelines, and wearing a mask. The more normal we can make these things, the easier the transition will be. Be encouraging and remind them to have a growth mindset. This is going to be new for everyone involved, so teach and model grace. This means for yourself too! Stay positive. You made the best decision for your child and family.
Set up a home-learning environment and try to stay as structured as possible. Be familiar with the expectations for synchronous and asynchronous options. As with in person, remind your child to have a growth mindset. This is going to be new for everyone involved, so teach and model grace. This means for yourself too! Stay positive. You made the best decision for your child and family. This means for yourself too! Stay positive. You made the best decision for your child and family.
What tips do you have for the optimal home learning environment?
Have a work space set up. This may be a corner of the house, desk, couch, or kitchen table. Make sure it’s quiet, clean, and ready to go with necessary supplies each day. It’s amazing how a clean space creates space in our brains to learn.
My child struggles with being online. What do you suggest?
Allow time for plenty of breaks. Sitting in front of a screen for hours is exhausting. Create a checklist for them. List the activities needed to be complete each day, and encourage breaks after checking off each one. Breaks can include snacks, stretching, playing outside, or something else to clear their mind between activities. Try to avoid breaks that involve screens.
Ask for help. Ask your school counselor to help with ideas on how to encourage your child to keep moving. In the spring, I created a few behavior reward activities for some of my students who were struggling with online learning and it helped a lot!
What if my child is having a hard time focusing on school work (whether online or with homework)? Do you have any simple tips to start with?
Set a timer. Have them focus on school work for 5-10 minutes at a time. Then take a break.
Use a sticker chart, or some type of reward system. Every time your child completes a task, add a sticker or check to the chart. After X amount of checks, give a reward. Positive behavior systems work well at school and also work at home. Talk with your child about various rewards they would like to earn.
I am not a school professional. What is the best way to support my child?
Be sure to check with your district about any parent education pieces. I know my district is providing videos to show parents how to use the different platforms, and I think it is safe to assume most of the others are too. The more familiar you are with the platforms, the easier it will be to show your child. Also, be sure to ask for help. If you are feeling overwhelmed and in over your head, ask the teacher for help. That’s what they are there for.
My child gets accommodations and/or modifications at school. I’m worried they will get legend or lost without these services. What do I do?
This is where having grace will come in. For your child, yourself, and the school. Services should still resume online with students who receive them, but it may take districts a few days to figure out how to make that work logistically. Remember we are all in the same boat. Everyone is receiving instruction differently than what they are used to. It’s ok to be an advocate for your child and ask direct questions about their services. Reach out to the the campus SPED teacher for more information.
How do I talk to my kids about school once it is open for in-person classes?
Tell them that it will look different, but steps will be taken to assure that they are safe. Remind them that it is very important to listen to their teachers and follow school guidelines about masks and other safety procedures. Encourage them to advocate for themselves if they feel unsafe.
How can parents/caregivers support school professionals during this time?
Show kindness and have grace. We really do not know what is going on day to day. It sometimes changes depending on the hour. Everyone is doing their best to stay safe, stay ahead, and make the best decisions that we can. Assume positive intent. Teachers are doing the best they can with what little they have. This time is frustrating, challenging, and exhausting. We are in it together and will come out stronger than ever. I really believe that.
What else would you like us to know?
The fact that you are reading this shows that you are wanting to know more. Whatever decision you make for your family is what is best, even if it looks different than your neighbors’. Stay positive, reach out to school personnel when needed, and take it day by day (or hour by hour). You can do this!
- Jessica Bradshaw, MS, LPC
Elementary Professional School Counselor