School reopening was a completely different ritual just a couple of years ago. The end of May signals the beginning of the new academic year. The first couple of days of June are dedicated to planning the logistics for the annual event – the first day of school. School notices, book lists, uniform lists, the chatter on parent Whatsapp groups – all information school-related is closely monitored and decoded. Checklists and schedules made. Responsibilities assigned.
School reopening is in the news
The news channels go on about when schools will reopen in 2021 but any home with school-going kids is already talking about this. In fact, the first half of June is solely dedicated to this event every year.
With both parents working in most cases, this event is treated with professional accuracy with a lot more emotional investment. This event, repeating each year, never seems to witness a decrease in the passion on the family’s part.
School reopening is a ritual that roughly lasts a fortnight
With new uniforms, school bags, leak-proof water bottles, new stationery and books, there is a checklist of things to get done before the big day. Going back to school after the summer break was when true teamwork came into play. A tag-team effort with parents coordinating with each other to tick things off. Some families initiate the child into this responsible role by capitalizing on their enthusiasm and assigning them small tasks.
Sometimes grandparents are enlisted to cover the books with the crisp plastic laminated brown paper, a telltale sign of a school book.
We had to hide the cover which had loud patterns and screaming colours, neatly label it and pen down the name, class, subject and school.
This probably is the first thing that children truly own with their name in ink on it. An unexciting ownership that spelt work and not play for the next 10 years at least, the brown covered books were probably the first tools anyone remembers. Its various sub-categories were the labelled school bag, bottle, tiffin, and whatever the child would carry to school.
The uniform neatly pressed and ready, shoes polished with new bone white socks – all set up the preceding day. Everything is planned down to the minute for the perfect first day of school. The next day, the choreography is set in motion with the child as the star, ready to begin the new year on the best possible note with the best possible behind the scenes action that the family handles.
School reopening hero – The Child
Our hero or heroine, the child, is neatly dressed, hair oiled and combed with the side part, a quick blessing from the deities and the elders at home, a spoonful of sweet curd and sent off to conquer yet another year. Although this may seem routine for many, we need to pause and look back at how much we invest emotionally into our children conquering something as simple as the first day of school. The excitement of parents is just as much as the child’s, more so in many cases. We all firmly believe the superstition that the first day of the year will determine how the rest of the year goes. It is only once the child is in school that the family heaves a sigh of relief. It is a sign of the routine that sets in.
All this changed in 2020
With the pandemic and lockdown, schools across the world went online. The rituals of reopening day and the first day of school changed overnight. There was no time to transition, no one knew how to do things because the future suddenly became unpredictable. There was ambiguity, confusion and a general sense of uncertainty when it came to our children’s education process.
Schools, teachers, students and parents were all finding their way through the new normal in education. Students and teachers were metaphorically thrown into the digital pool where they had to log in and sync. Zoom meets, Google meets, apps and Youtube videos were now seen in a different light. Parents could no longer tell their kids to ‘Leave the Screen’. The screen was now the new way forward.
Get with the program
Back to school in 2020 meant finding a screen, getting familiar with new apps and software, studying from pdfs and documents and giving tests through google forms and others. With these came network problems and system errors which found parents in a new role – IT support.
The deep-seated need to conquer all things ‘school’ has always driven parents. They to become pros, be it navigating through the school’s administrative office, to the nuances of the PTA or any extra-curricular activities. Parents have risen to this challenge having mastered the backend support to give the child a seamless learning experience.
In other words, give a seamless experience so there is no excuse to avoid learning.
With all things rapidly going digital, parents find themselves in unfamiliar waters. Keeping track of notifications through email, apps, software, and so on is overwhelming. Many of us resort to depending on Whatsapp groups where information is given on demand. However, since there is no indexing possible in chat groups, this again leads to confusion. Not to mention the eager participants who confuse further with various assumptions.
So, the key here is the flow of information.
Rather an overflow of information that loses its structure along the way. Any parent who had gone through year one of the digital school era can attest to this. The concept is just as new for schools as it is for parents. Therefore, patience is required on both parts along with better listening platforms to resolve issues faster. If schools were to invest, not just monetarily, in better communication systems and parents would have a little more faith in the system, the communication problem could be sorted out.
The nature of parental involvement
The child’s schooling process now also involves parents. The six or seven hours spent at school is not at home. This means the parent becomes an indirect participant by proxy. Because of this involvement and the goal of the child succeeding at school, parents have taken on the role of a teacher. This has not only given a new appreciation for the work teachers put in but has brought back the respect this noble profession deserves.
High parental involvement is bound to lead to a greater impact on the child’s academic achievement. In many cases, parents have to keep pace with the child when it comes to technology adoption. Most times children are the ones teaching the parents the ins and outs of the computer, thus boosting their confidence. Before we realise it we are actually encouraging the child while being supportive and emotionally available. Thus, giving them a better chance at their future.
Because parents are learning with the child, it has also led to better bonding.
There is no textbook to deal with online schooling
No, there IS no textbook yet. Trust us, we have searched.
The pandemic has just accelerated what was already underway – a digital shift. Leapfrogging into this shift can be overwhelming but we parents always rise to the challenge. With the right amount of determination, we can ride this wave of change and look good doing it too.
Based on our experience we have put together a little guide to help you through this. Check it out here.
School reopening has a completely new meaning for today’s generation of kids. The monumental shift of this important aspect of their childhood into a device rendering a two-dimensional experience is sure to have its effects, both positive and negative. We parents have to be open-minded and vigilant. Especially now when things are changing so fast. And we also have to imbibe values in children so that they can make the right decision when it comes to the positives and negatives.
With most schools reopening in June with a second lockdown as the setting, parents are trying ways and means to get the books and uniforms in order and upgrading systems at home. The study desk has made a big comeback while school bags, water bottles and lunch bags have been sidelined. Parents still practice the school reopening ritual because a great first day will pave the way for a great academic year. Sure, there are some changes as per the New Normal. But there are certain aspects from the old normal that are still followed.
As we write this:
We too are following the school updates and Whatsapp group, enlisting grandparents to ensure the child is attending class attentively all while managing our work hours and shop timings.
What we have realized is that School reopening is just day one and at the end of that day when our little hero or heroine returns triumphant, we rejoice. We feel good. No – WE FEEL GREAT.