by Meg Flanagan
When I walked out of my school on March 12, I had zero inklings that it would be my last day teaching for the school year. My teaching table is still covered with lessons for the week on March 16. Everything is neatly organized by group and topic, collated and stapled. Ready to go.
And that’s where they’ll be when I walk back into my classroom, whenever that might be.
I’m feeling at loose ends with how this school year “ended.” And if I’m feeling this way as a grown-up, I can imagine that the kids are feeling just as weird right now.
Nothing will be the “same” as if they were still going to regular school. But you can still try! And right now, it’s the thought that counts.
Mark the Milestones
When my daughter started kindergarten last fall, we took her picture. She held up her chalkboard, proudly displaying her grade and what she wants to be when she’s a grown-up. (P.S. She wants to be a nurse and a princess and a teacher.)
When we wrap up crisis schooling this year, we’ll take the picture again! Our chalkboard is reversible, with one side for fall and one for spring.
The spring picture won’t be what I expected. It won’t be nicely posed. Actually, we might do a crazy crisis schooling picture on purpose! But it will still mark the end of her kindergarten year and the transition to first grade.
Keep the Connections
The thing my kids miss most? Their friends and teachers. So much of school is social.
To combat this, we have a weekly social moment with her class and teachers. Everyone hops on Zoom and they all get to release the pent up chattering for 30 minutes. It’s honestly the sweetest thing!
Having regular ways to connect is important right now. So even if it’s just via video chat, put something on the books so that your kids can connect with their friends and teachers.
Yearbook committees were in full swing, but not quite ready to ship the final copy to the printers. But you can DIY a yearbook with a little help from teachers and other parents.
Use a photobook service, like Shutterfly or Snapfish, to create a memory album of this wild, crazy year just for your child’s class. Yes, it will cost a little more than your traditional yearbook, but also why not? Instead of signatures, add in special memories for each student and have the teachers write a special message to their class. For older kids or crazy huge class years, you could break this down into smaller groups or give students the option to DIY their own with friends.
Really, it’s about marking the occasion and preserving the memories.
Congratulate the Grads!
For the last month or so, signs have been popping up on lawns all over my area. Each sign marks a house with a graduating senior. And I love it.
We won’t get to see the kids walk at graduation and there likely won’t be a “redo” moment available to them. So knowing that my neighbor a few streets up is graduating let’s me shout my congrats to her from a safe social distance. If you know a graduating senior, take the time to send a card, say congrats or do something else to mark the moment.
Host a Social Distancing Prom
Along with all the other moments that this year’s high schoolers, especially seniors, will miss is the prom. Ah, yes, the prom. That moment of peak elegance for the 16- to 18-year-old crowd.
Since they can’t go to prom, help prom come to them!
Use Rent the Runway or scour your own closets for formal wear that fits. Then dress the whole family up for a night in your house. Serve an elegant meal your high schooler adores. Yes, even if it’s just Stouffer’s lasagna. Pour some sparkling juice for the under 21-year-olds and maybe indulge in a bottle of champagne for adults.
Then spin some sweet tunes on your iPhone and dance the night away. If you really want to go all out, you could decorate the house with balloons, crepe paper and a disco ball. Again, it’s the effort that matters and not the outcome.
Plan to Do Something Special Post-Pandemic
Eventually, the pandemic needs to end, right? Right?!?!?!
And when that moment arrives, celebrate. If you can, organize a special party or meet-up with your child’s classmates from this year. Or if your “child” is a teen, host a party for their friends. Fire up the grill for burgers and dogs, then make ice cream sundaes before getting soaking wet on a water slide. Or, you know, do whatever makes the most sense for you. Again, it’s the marking of the moment that counts and not the actual event itself. Just do something.
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Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!