by Jason Kezmarsky, Assistant Head of Middle School
I’ve decided that I will be referring to the “2020-2021 School Year” as the “COVID-19 School Year.” What an experience for all of us - teachers, parents, and most importantly, students! Whether your family was pivoting between remote learning, hybrid learning, or in-person learning, we did it. The COVID-19 School Year is behind us and now it is time to return to… normal? I’m not quite sure what “normal” will entail for the 2021-2022 school year, but, as an administrator, here are some reflections I’ve had after completing the COVID-19 school year in-person.
The COVID-19 school year hit while many students entered a new building or possibly even changed to a new division. This change brings much excitement but also anxiety. On top of it, some students still have not had the in-person experience associated with these transitions. That said, my recommendation is to take advantage of any opportunities your child’s school provides to orient them. Whether it be an orientation program, picking up items from their school, or a day to set up their locker - GO! These events will allow your child to become familiar with their new surroundings and help ease anxiety while approaching their new beginnings.
Routine, Routine, Routine
I admit, waking up for the school year in a remote learning environment was excellent. My typical routine was to be out of bed by 7:45am, get my breakfast ready, and hop online to classes by 8:00am. Nothing will ever beat that morning commute! Adjusting back to in-person learning took some time and there were definitely days of exhaustion. Your child will need time to get used to an earlier wake-up time and a long day, so start early. Use the week before school starts to build up your child’s stamina gradually. Wake them up early each morning and have them go to bed earlier each night, without technology. Have your child practice getting ready in the morning by accomplishing everything they need to get ready for school (showering, eating breakfast, walking out the door on time, etc.). Do not let the evening before the first day of school come as a surprise.
Adjusting to Traditional Expectations
Flexibility was the key to success during the COVID-19 school year. As an administrator, I found that providing students with extended deadlines or loosening up classroom expectations allowed for everyone to navigate such a unique time in education successfully. This upcoming school year will see a shift back to traditional expectations and it’s going to take some adjusting on everyone’s part - students, parents, teachers, and administrators. As a parent, take time to understand your child’s expectations at school. Mistakes will happen. Whether it be forgetting to meet a deadline or forgetting something at home, I am here to say that is okay! Use these opportunities as moments for reflection. Talk it through with your child and discuss a plan moving forward. It’s going to be vital that we allow the time for everyone to adjust!
It may have taken me four years as an educator to figure out this trick, but having clear and open communication with parents makes a school year go so much smoother. As a parent, be involved in your child’s education. Even if you are slowly allowing your child to become more independent, there is still room for involvement. Ask them to explain what they are learning in math. Ask them how it’s going with friends in and out of the classroom. Set time aside to check in. Additionally, as previously mentioned, make sure you know the teacher's expectations and don’t hesitate to reach out to them. Teachers want to hear from you, even if it is a small note to say hello. Establishing a connection with your child’s teacher allows for a positive focus on your child’s education and will help when facing difficult conversations. If you go to Parent Teacher Conferences and the information shared is already known, then you know that you are connected with your child’s teachers.
This upcoming school year is going to be a significant transition for everyone, but don’t forget, we are all in this together. Your child’s education is a group effort, and positive collaboration will get everyone back on track. I wish you all the best for a “normal” 2021-2022 school year!
Jason Kezmarsky is entering his third year as the Assistant Head of Middle School and has been a member of the Bullis community for over a decade. Throughout his tenure, Jason has served as a math teacher, soccer coach, Middle School Math and Grade Level Coordinator, and an advisor for both Student Government and the National Junior Honor Society. Jason has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Duquesne University, a Master of Education in Education Leadership from George Mason University, and was awarded the Dr. Richard K. Jung Faculty First Award in 2017.
Jason is also the proud uncle to his two nieces - Isabella (8) and Chole (6). When he’s not in Pittsburgh spending time with family, Jason can be found exploring the great outdoors or figuring out how many beach trips he can squeeze into his summer vacation.
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