This fall will undoubtedly look different for a lot of families this year.

Whether your kids are going back to school in person, masked and ready, or are learning remotely from home, one thing is for certain: Our nation’s teachers are going to need support more than ever before.

Dealing with all the changes in the classroom will be a challenge for educators and students alike, so here are some ways that parents can support teachers this fall, no matter what learning looks like.

    We’re all accustomed to fulfilling teachers’ wish lists, but this year they'll need even more than usual. In addition to cleaning supplies like sanitizing wipes and extra disposable masks for in-person instruction, many will need individual student supplies, too, especially for younger kids who can’t share pencils and crayons.

    As adults, we are so inundated with news about virus prevention that we may forget that our kids aren’t necessarily as in-the-know. Shelby S.*, a kindergarten assistant teacher in California, suggests parents take time to prepare younger children on what the new school year might look like, along with practicing safe behavior, like picking up their own supplies and handwashing.

    “Ask your kids to explain to you what they think school will look like,” she advises, and then use their thoughts as a starting place for a bigger discussion on the new rules. And if you will be doing in-person schooling with a mask requirement, practice having your child wear the mask for an extended period before school begins.

    “This year, being a teammate with your child's teacher is the best way to support them and your student,” explains Dana L.*, a junior high school teacher from Michigan. “Communication now more than ever is key.”

    Partnering with your child’s teacher means making sure your child is staying on task, completing assignments and reaching out for help if kids are not understanding a concept remotely. With so many physical barriers, a teacher may not be aware of when a student needs help or is falling behind.

    Dana also stresses the importance of patience as the school year progresses — a simple act in theory, but not always the easiest to carry out.

    Jennifer T.*, a middle-school teacher from Michigan, suggests parents keep in mind that a lot of the restrictions placed on schools are not decisions being made by the school district or teachers. “Teachers are doing the best we can with what we are given,” she says. “In many cases, teachers are having to be a virtual teacher and an in-person teacher at the same time. Just remember we are trying to manage, just like everyone else.”

    “We all have to be patient with each other,” Dana says. “This isn't an ideal situation for anyone, and we are kind of learning as we go. Teachers would love to be experts at it all, but we aren't always. There are hurdles we all have to overcome, so giving grace to one another will be so beneficial as the year goes on.”

    Nora S., a high school teacher of 33 years from Michigan, suggests that parents can support teachers providing remote instruction by ensuring that their child has a separate study area set up at home.

    “As much as you are able, try to give them a place away from the TV or other screens, so that they can work without distraction,” she says.

    If your family does not have access to the resources they need for learning, such as a spare computer for remote access or reliable Wi-Fi, Nora urges families to reach out to their school’s administration. Schools are required to have a plan in place for all learners, so they'll be able to help with resources like Internet hot spots, take-home laptops or printed material.

    “We do have resources and avenues to help your student get what they need,” Dana adds. “But we can't do that if we don't know they need something.”

    Sending a restaurant gift card is an easy way to donate a lunch to a teacher while supporting the local economy. You could even work with administration to help donate food for a socially distanced back-to-school luncheon.

    Or send teachers some coffee, because we all could use a little boost, right? Amazon has some great options for gift baskets these days and, of course, local is always best, so consider arranging for a delivery or mail some coffee shop gift cards to the school to distribute to teachers.

    This intangible help can make a big difference. Because the truth is, teachers will be learning as they go, too, so knowing they have the parents’ support can go a long way toward boosting morale.

    “Reach out — express concerns, be transparent and start the year with an open dialogue that you’re grateful and want to help,” Shelby suggests.

    And remember the teachers are on your child’s side. “Teachers want your kids to be safe and successful,” Dana adds. “Just know that your child's teachers are going to do everything in their power to help your children throughout the year.”

*Names have been changed to protect privacy

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