The Time to Lead is Now: Educating In The New Normal


For many of us, our earliest memories include anecdotes about our favorite teachers or school friends.  For students right now, instead of memories about their teachers or friends in 2020, they’ll remember working alongside their siblings with their parents acting as their teacher.

While this change can be overwhelming and confusing for the students, it’s equally so for the parents.  Many parents are tackling the new challenge of educating their children with limited resources or without an understanding of how to keep their children engaged all day.

Leadership Buffalo sat down with leaders in the education community (who are also parents!) to get their advice on ways to structure an effective school day.  Jason Hall is an instructional coach at Highgate Heights; Patti Stephens is the Executive Director at Buffalo Prep, and Bridget Ryan used to be a Spanish teacher, and is now educating her three children at home.

Creating a School Structure at Home

You’ll want to create a schedule to ensure that your children are accomplishing their school work and being productive during the school day.  While you don’t need to hold yourselves to a rigid schedule, structure provides a familiarity to your “students” that’s comforting.

There’s a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when creating your family’s new schedule.

  1. What are everyone’s technology needs?  With multiple Zoom calls and Google classroom check-ins, your internet may not be able to handle everything.  Sitting down at the beginning of the week to see who needs the internet when can help you tailor your schedule to ensure that everyone is able to have their meetings and class time without any issues.
  2. Include your children in creating the schedule.  Having them make decisions about their schedule (with your guidance) can help them to feel in control during an uncertain time.  Let them choose which assignment to tackle first.  For older students, focus on what they’re getting done, not when.  If your teenager doesn’t have to call into school and would rather sleep in until 1:00 pm and do homework at 2:00 am, let them.
  3. Be flexible and add some fun to your schedule.  Include time to be creative.  Have your movie night on a Wednesday and on a Friday.  Bake something in the kitchen to practice math and fractions.  Consider theming your days according to what you’ll be working on that day.  

As you create your new schedule, make sure to set aside family time where you’re not focused on school or work.  You’ll all appreciate it.

Supplementary Educational Activities

Assignments from your children’s school will only keep them busy for a portion of the day.  When you’re looking for other ways to keep them engaged and their brain active, consider some of the activities below:

  1. Read. Read absolutely anything and everything. You can read books, newspapers, and magazines together.  For children who are learning to read, have them highlight their sight words in an old magazine or newspaper.
  2. Play a board game. Some board games like Yahtzee or Scrabble are another way to emphasize your math or reading lessons.  Others are just for fun!
  3. Take a virtual field trip. Many cultural sites are offering virtual tours on their websites.  Take a virtual tour together and have your children write a postcard or persuasive essay convincing their friend to take one too.

For more ideas, check out the educational resources at the bottom of this post.

Challenges in Our Education System

Our new normal has exposed the inequalities in our education system.  One of the biggest challenges for our educators has been attempting to reach all of their students when not everyone has the same resources.

Some students may not have online access or have only a smartphone to complete their assignments.  Some may have parents working from home, while others have parents who are essential workers and are unable to help them with their schoolwork.

Our speakers have seen that children care about their education.  They want to learn.  This situation has highlighted that circumstances has made it harder for some students to learn than others.  But it has also forced us to innovate.  And hopefully, this need for innovation will help us to find a way to provide and equitable education for all of the students in our community.

Educational Resources: