The reopening of schools across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic has gained major attention, with strong opinions on both sides.
The rise of the virus has left parents grappling with issues surrounding the health, safety and education of their children. As society begins to reopen and people head back into the workforce, the decisions surrounding the how, when and why of children heading back to the classroom are the source of hot debate.
While there is no clear cut national guideline for this transition, the states and districts have been doing their best to govern their schools and attempt to put forth the safest option for all staff and students, while adhering to the ever-changing recommendations from the CDC.
As the children head back to their classrooms, their environments may look a bit different, there may be fewer seating areas, lesson shelves and toys in order to keep everything sanitized — and to keep the children and staff spaced out safely.
This means the children will be in smaller groups and will stay together for the duration, may be encouraged to participate in more individual play and enhanced hygiene routines. There will be no more sharing of snacks, community-style lunches or group activities.
It is important to remember that not all these changes are necessarily negatively impactful to the child’s overall health, safety and learning experience. In the matter of independent drop-off and creating a clear boundary between the home and school environments, children will now have the chance to assert more confidence in themselves and their caregivers on both sides. As children are now left to their own devices within their environments, and more responsibility is placed on them to care for their own belongings as well as communicate and tend to their own individual needs, we may see a dramatic shift in children becoming more self-sufficient.
Studies have shown that children want to be treated with dignity and given the responsibility to care for themselves in order to develop autonomy, rather than a sense of learned helplessness. Moreover, children working alone, rather than in groups, is not necessarily a bad thing either. In many educational models such as the Waldorf and Montessori methods, children are encouraged to keep to their own workspaces, choose their own work and to independently complete those tasks.
This has been a proven positive aspect in the building of concentration of young children, which is an important life skill that many of our children in this new digital age lack.
Overall, these choices are difficult and personal for all families involved. It comes down to a matter of perspective.
Children are observant, they are capable and most of all resilient. They will adapt, they will cope and they will persevere.
So perhaps the question we need to ask is not “How will they adapt?” but “Is the new normal so abnormal after all?”
Lori Brousseau is the Director of Primary Program at Cypress Junction Montessori School in Winter Haven.