Back to school has always been a weirdly exciting time for me. As a kid, as a teen, as a college student, and twice for my masters, this time of year would whisper promises to me simply because it was new. Did I worry about the classes I was taking? Sure. Did I hate getting up so early? Absolutely. Did I find out I had the worst teachers in the long history of the school? Maybe- but none of those things were enough to dampen that back-to-school feeling.
The picking of a new outfit. The laying my stuff out the night before. The plans. The planners.
Ahhhh. Office supplies-pens, pads, and post-its-those are my jam. I am such a nerd.
I’m other things, too. I’m a Young Adult author, and also a speech pathologist at a high school. I am lucky to work with autistic kids, kids with reading disorders, and kids with intellectual disabilities.
So last March when the world sort of exploded for us, my school did two things. First, they held a faculty meeting to let us know that there was NO way our schools were shutting down. Put that thought away. Don’t even think about it. No one is going home and working from home. That would be ludicrous. You get the idea. The next thing they did really surprised me -- they got on the announcements and told us all that we were closing face to face instruction, effective immediately. Perfect.
When the order came down for remote learning, I wondered how my therapy kids would do virtually. Some of them had limited computer knowledge. Some needed help logging on. Some had trouble remembering to get up in the morning. I was concerned. But the one thing they ALL had in common was that they wanted to be in class. They wanted to see faces. They wanted to pass notes in the chat function during their Google Meets.
Now, I will say that the kids I work with tend to be super social-very chatty. They like to have
fun, and nothing pleases them more than being with their friends. I knew this about them, but
what I didn’t realize is their drive to be part of a group was so rewarding to them, that they
were willing to work through the process of figuring out a whole new system. Unreal!
This fall, many schools will be starting with virtual instruction. Some will go back fully, but will
be at risk for a sudden closing down. I think the best way to figure how to shift
seamlessly to a new schedule, a new mindset, a new way to hang out and learn, is to have a
plan. Here are some easy steps you can take to prepare. Students, you can:
1. Be flexible and ask specific questions.
2. Tell adults if you are feeling anxious or uncertain about an assignment or a requirement.
3. Ask for help.
4. Get up ten minutes before you think you have to so your brain will be fully awake when
class starts. Make that fifteen minutes.
5. Do not put off assignments. Just because you are not face to face, doesn’t mean your
teacher won’t notice when you don’t turn in your work.
6. Stay organized. This is the time to consider different types of planners!
7. Nothing feels better than being caught up with your work. Don’t get behind. Remember
that your school day is still your school day, even when you are home.
9. Have a plan for each day. Everyone needs structure.
10. Tell your teachers about your IEP or 504 accommodations.
Most importantly, be kind. To your parents who are trying to figure all of this out. To your
teachers and the para-professionals you work with. To yourself.
No one can predict what this school year will bring, but I feel confident that for school year
2020-2021 that we will all get through this together. You will be able to advocate for yourself,
learn new and cool things, and read amazing books. I am most excited for you about the books you’ll read. read. Stories take us places. They entertain us and lift us when we’re unhappy. They scare us for fun. They make us think big thoughts about other people and how we can be empathetic. Books make us better people and happier people.
You will discover new ways to work together and hatch new habits (hopefully good ones). I’ve
got new office supplies. My pens are lined up. My notebooks are ready. But more importantly, I believe in you. I believe in us. Let’s do this!
Stacie Ramey is the award-winning author of The Sister Pact, The Homecoming, The Secrets We Bury, and It's My Life. She lives in Wellington, Florida, with her husband and an ever-changing number of rescue dogs. When she's not writing, she's looking for her next favorite read. Stacie takes her coffee (strong, black, and conflict-free) on her morning walks where she takes a different route every day, searching for the five wild parrots that live in her village, or the horses, goats, and chickens that seem to pop up out of nowhere. When she's not writing she engages in Netflix Wars with her grown children or beats her husband in Scrabble.