Children and Screens’ #AskTheExperts webinar “School’s Back, Now What? A Conversation About Teaching and Learning During COVID-19,” held on August 26th, 2020 at 12:00pm EDT, featured a conversation between distinguished, interdisciplinary researchers, educators, child development experts and parents on supporting families in adjusting to new plans, engaging with their children, and their children’s “new” classrooms both on and off screen. The discussion included reflections and lessons learned from the previous semester’s pivot to online learning, and strategies for how to bridge the distance gap between students and teachers and amongst peers. Parents and educators offered advice on how they can help their children cope and thrive both academically as well as socio-emotionally.


  • Lisa Nielsen, MA

    Senior Director; Permanently Certified Public School Educator and Administrator; Author Digital Literacy and Inclusion, New York CIty Department of Education; Teaching Generation Next
  • Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH

    Editor-in-Chief; Director JAMA Pediatrics; Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development Seattle Children’s Research Institute
    Headshot of Dimitri Christakis
  • Charmain Jackman, PhD

    Psychologist; Founder InnoPsych, Inc.
  • David McKinnon, PhD

    Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior Stony Brook University
  • Elizabeth Englander, PhD

    Director; Professor of Psychology Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center; Bridgewater State University

[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Welcome and thank you for joining us for this week’s Ask the Experts workshop. I am Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra, President and Founder of Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, and host of this popular weekly series. As you know Children and Screens is a leading interdisciplinary convener, founder and curator of scientific research, and public educator on the topic of digital media and child development. So school is back and this year is not going to be easy any way you look at it. We know that you are all apprehensive and that there has been a lot of commentary about decisions that your schools and districts have made. We don’t have all the answers but we’re here to provide some great tips and information for you and your children through this difficult period. Trust yourselves to make the right decisions and keep in mind that your attitudes play an important role in determining children’s thoughts and feelings about the school year. Our panelists have reviewed the questions and will try to answer as many as they can; if you have additional questions during the workshop please type them into the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen and indicate whether or not you would like to ask your question live on camera or if you would prefer that the moderator read your question. Please know that we will not be able to answer all of them. We are recording today’s workshop and hope to upload a video to YouTube in the coming days. You will receive a link to our YouTube channel tomorrow where you can find videos from our past webinars as well. It is now my pleasure to introduce our moderator, Lisa Nielsen. Senior director of digital literacy and inclusion at the new york city department of education, she is also a permanently certified public school educator and administrator and the author of teach generation text. We are delighted to have Lisa with us today, welcome Lisa.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you so much and I am going to go ahead and share my screen with all of you. Today we are going to be talking about school is back and now what are we going to do. I am really excited to have some esteemed panelists with me here today and that includes Dr. Dimitri Christakis, Dr. Charmain Jackman, Dr. David Mckinnon, and Dr. Elizabeth Englander, and you’ll learn a little bit more about each of them when it’s their turn to present. As you hear from our panel and me, make sure you are sending us your questions in the Q&A box and make sure you tell us if you are if you’d like to have your question answered live on camera. Some of the concerns that we’ll be discussing today is we’re going back to school and how is that all going to work, how will we ensure that students are thriving with all of this technology in the classroom as it has more of a presence in education, we will discuss ensuring that your child is emotionally healthy and how to address their anxieties, and will address fears such as falling behind and adequate social interaction. Before we get started I’m going to define some terms that apply to how students will be learning this year. So let’s go to our next slide, so there are many different models that you might see in the school or district that you are in but here are three that are relatively common. We’ll be discussing whether your student is going to school in a distance or a remote setting, and regardless of the model that we’re going to be talking about that your child will be going back to we’ll help you ensure that it will be successful. So whether they’re going distance learning, part-time, face-to-face, part-time face-to-face or part-time remote which is known as hybrid, or in-person learning we’ll figure out some ideas and ways to determine what is best for your students. Just a little bit more about each of those models, distant-remote means it’s kind of like virtual school and your student your child stays at home, hybrid your child will spend some time learning remotely and some time in the school, and in person they’ll be in school just as they are in the typical school year. The next thing to think about is in each of those settings who is it that your child will learn with. In the distance remote setting in this model students will have work that they’re responsible for but it may not be practical for all classmates to come together at the same time depending on family schedule, ability of technology and access to it. What’s more likely is the teacher will have instructions for the student to review, this may be reading an article or watching an instructional video. Then the teacher may do the following to offer student support that might be a one-on-one check-in small group support office hours. In the hybrid model students may be broken into cohorts and a common option is to have like an ab or an abc cohort schedule and in this model students might be into in school one to three days a week at times they might be face to face with the same peers though they might be also an online community and have discussions with the whole class whether they’re face to face or remote, and in this case the teacher may suggest small groups of students who work together face to face and also work together while learning remotely, and in some cases they’re calling these learning pods. So in New York City there will be a face-to-face teacher who’s responsible for the face-to-face student and the remote teacher will be responsible for the remote students. That is not the way it will be in all places, in other places the face-to-face teacher would also be responsible for the remote students and the hybrid model, and in person in many cases students would be socially distant so they won’t interact as they would in a normal school year and as a result student the teacher will be working with students face to face, but they might also group students in small cohorts to limit interaction with the larger group. And the teacher will likely very carefully select these cohorts of students and those might change over time. In either of these models you’ll probably experience something called a blended learning approach, and what this is is that it combines digital learning with face-to-face support. So when we say face-to-face today that face-to-face might be in a classroom or it might be face-to-face via video conferencing. And while they’re face-to-face the teacher would offer students a variety of support where they’re helping the student or small group of students, and in the online learning the students might be watching a video or reading an article so that they are all on the same page. One of the most common examples of the blended learning model is called flip learning. So you could see from this graphic that students might view or recorded lesson before the class or even in the class and they might get an article and then we come together face-to-face. That is when the teacher will work with the students and assist groups or assist students one on one. So we’re going to do a little poll and we want to get a sense from our audience what option will your child face this school year: will it be distance learning, in person schooling, hybrid schooling, or other, or are you undecided. So we’re going to give you a moment to respond to that. When the answers come in we will share the results so that people can kind of get a sense of who we have here. I’m going to go on to define a few other terms, so you will hear the term synchronous and asynchronous learning. Synchronous is easy to think about synchronous same, asynchronous different. So in synchronous learning students are engaging and learning at the same time with their teacher. This might be live teaching, webinars, instant messaging, live video or audio conferencing, chatting, one-on-one conferring, small or a hold of discussion that might be polling or quizzes. Asynchronous students learn the same thing at different times, like I was just talking about with the flip learning model. Where there’s recorded video or audio lessons or recorded webinar it could be a self-paced course  or it could be an article that they’re reading. So those are some terms that you’re really going to start hearing a bit more. I just want to frame the conversation as you’re hearing from our panelists today, so what you will be thinking about and if you want to get out your computer or a piece of paper and perhaps make five columns and just think about the main questions that you’ll be asking your child’s school, asking your child, asking staff, considering around your own wellness or well-being. So think about those because that is what you’re going to hear from our panelists today. Speaking of our panelists, to get us started with this I’d like to ask Dr. Dimitri Christakis to provide us with some insights into the physical health perspectives around this transition to back to school. Dr. Christakis is Editor-in-Chief of JAMA Pediatrics, he’s the Director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, and he knows that there’s not a one size fit fits all model and that we can’t treat all community schools or students the same. He’ll discuss considerations for back to this school year meeting parents where they are. Dr. Christakis, will you please share with parents how they can keep their kids safe and healthy regardless of the model their child will be going back to this year? We’d love to hear from you.


[Dr. Dimitri Christakis]: Thanks Lisa and thanks all of you for joining us during these extraordinary times. I am a pediatrician and an epidemiologist. I am also a member of the board of advisors for Children and Screens, and I will sort of try to share with you what my own perspective is as a pediatrician and an epidemiologist about what the risks covid poses to children are, and what things we can do to try to keep our children as safe as possible. So one of the most common concerns I hear from parents is how dangerous is covid to my child? How worried do I need to be if they get it? We know from studies that have been done all around the world that children are at less risk from serious disease or serious complications of covid compared to adults. We’re still trying to figure out exactly what that risk is, but I can tell you what we know so far. As many as 40 percent of children that get covid are asymptomatic or have such mild symptoms that their parents aren’t even aware that they have it. So a sizable percentage of kids show virtually no symptoms at all. If your child gets covid you may be worried about what their risk of the worst possible outcome, which is to say death is. Here’s the best data that I’ve been able to find: about 500,000 children have confirmed covid in the United States, and about a hundred children have died of it. That is about a one in five thousand chance and the truth is probably more kids have had covid than we realized because I mentioned so many kids don’t even have symptoms they weren’t even tested. So what does a one in five thousand chance look like, well your chance your child’s chances of being hit by lightning in their lifetime are about one in ten to one and fifteen thousand. Just to give you some sense of what the risk to children is. Now the other question I get asked a lot is, what about if my child has chronic disease, well children with chronic disease are at greater risk but it’s really important to try to understand what that risk is. Frequently in the public arena people talk about the risk being twice as high or three times as high and that can be very very scary, the truth is that children with some chronic diseases are at a two-fold or threefold increased risk, but that still means that the risk of dying is two in five thousand. Not enormously high. Iwant to emphasize that the most common chronic disease in childhood, which is asthma, doesn’t seem to increase the risk significantly at all. So if you’re worried about your child’s individual risk it’s really important to have a conversation with your child’s doctor to figure out just how dangerous it is for them. Now the next question I get asked a lot is how contagious are children, so it’s fine to know it’s reassuring to know that they’re at low risk but what is their risk of transmitting the virus to their teachers to staff at school or bringing it home to you or your family? We’re still trying to figure this out. It’s pretty clear now that older children, which is to say high school kids and probably middle school kids are as contagious as adults are. Meaning that they’re just as likely to pass it on to others as you are. Younger children, kids under the age of 10 and particularly preschool children, seem less likely to pass the virus on. These data are really based from a study out of South Korea and it wasn’t a very large study it’s gotten a lot of attention, but it does seem that young children are less likely to transmit the virus and that’s biologically plausible to me and the reason I say that is because the way you pass this virus on and it’s important to think of this, is through respiratory droplets. So coughing, sneezing, breathing very hard and pushing the virus out and and then into other people’s respiratory tracts or into their eyes. Now you do that when you have symptoms and since many children don’t have symptoms they’re less likely to pass it on. Even when they have symptoms little children don’t cough as aggressively, they don’t expel as much air when they breathe, so they’re less likely to transmit the virus. Really little children even when they do that tend to transmit it to the ground, right they’re not very high off the ground so the virus doesn’t tend to spread broadly throughout a room it tends to go on the ground where it’s less likely to be transmitted. Now the next thing I want to talk about is what we call mitigation strategies, so what are the things that we can do to prevent transmission in school and at home? There are many many things that are talked about, I want to emphasize three that we know work and one that there’s a strong reason to believe will work. The first is mask wearing. You’ve heard about this a lot. I don’t need to belabor it, but I do want to emphasize that when your child goes to school it’s important that they wear a mask to protect themselves and to protect other children. They need to wear it the right way that means it needs to cover their nose and their mouth, and they need to keep it on because taking it off and putting it back on might even be worse than not wearing a mask because you run the risk that you will contaminate the mask and then put it back on your face. So it’s important to start practicing wearing your mask before your children go to home school, start wearing it at home and make sure they put it on the right way and they can tolerate wearing it. Let them customize their mask, order the cool mask that they like, something that has a theme that they will find fun to wear. The second thing that works is hand hygiene, so very important that you get your child used to washing their hands frequently. It doesn’t have to be with alcohol hand gel, although that works, soap and water works just as well. Let’s make sure they do it for at least 20 seconds and start doing that at home. The third thing we know is social distance. That can be difficult to do in school settings. It’s a good thing to start making your children aware of how to maintain distance between other people as much as they can. The one thing we don’t know if it works but I think it’s an important containment strategy, is what Lisa alluded to before in her model which is called potting. That is a way where we within a school keep a set group of kids together, ideally a small group of kids 10 to 15 or 10 to 20, and they’re the only kids your child is exposed to at school. It could be ideally their class so they stick with their class at recess, in the classroom, at lunch. The reason this is important is it minimizes the number of children that your child could be exposed to that could transmit the virus, and within a school, even if there is a virus in the school introduced, it can be contained to one pod and not spread throughout the entire school. The last thing I want to talk about briefly because I think another panelist is going to talk about it, is whether you should send your child to school at all. This varies by community. It’s very difficult to give blanket advice, but the two things I think every parent should think about, and they can get information on this from their local public health department, is how prevalent is the virus in your community. This varies, right, there areas in this country where the virus is incredibly prevalent the most prevalent areas in the world are in the United States. There are other areas where it’s much lower. That’s the first piece of information you need to know, and the second bit of information you need to know is what mitigation strategies is your child’s school doing and how effectively are they doing them? Are they requiring masks, are they enforcing mass policies, do they have a hand hygiene protocol in place, are they trying to maintain social distance, do they have pods, these are important things for you to determine and to advocate for. The final thing I want to say with the remainder of my time is I’ve been outspoken in saying that we should prioritize as a society getting children back to school. It’s immensely important for their cognitive, social, and emotional development, and it’s especially important for the youngest children in our communities, primary school children and children with special needs for whom distance learning really doesn’t work very well. So thank you I’d be happy to take any questions now or later. Take care.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Okay, thank you so much for sharing some of your insights, and there’s some new things actually that you shared that I hadn’t even considered. Like if they’re little, they’re less likely to spread the virus up. So thanks for sharing something new. We do have some questions that came in and it looks like this participant would like me to ask it directly. The first question is, I’ve just heard this study out today regarding needing a distance of 26. I don’t know, I think that’s inches but maybe feet, I’ll get clarification to avoid transmission. Can Dr. Christakis answer this question? The study is out of Harvard and out on NBC Today, thanks.


[Dr. Dimitri Christakis]: Well, it’s a big difference 26 inches and 26 feet. I don’t think 26 feet, I haven’t seen the study. I will look for it as soon as we’re done here, neither of those seem credible to me. 26 feet seems extraordinarily far, 26 inches seems very very close.


[Lisa Nielsen]: It’s feet, I just got confirmation.


[Dr. Dimitri Christakis]: Okay, so there’s been intermittent concern about whether or not this virus is aerosolized. I talked about respiratory droplets, there’s a difference between droplets and aerosols. To give you an example, one of the most contagious diseases we know of is something called measles which you’re all familiar with, and hopefully your child is vaccinated against it, measles is spread by aerosolized droplets. It’s incredibly contagious. If a single child with measles is in a classroom it’s very likely that every child that’s not immunized will get measles. That’s why we see these outbreaks. It’s very clear that in spite of what any new study has shown that covid is not like that, and the reason we know that is because if it were like that we would be seeing huge outbreaks, because we know that people with covid have been in rooms with other people without covid and nobody is immune to covid so we would see huge events. We haven’t seen such events. So I don’t think covid is super contagious, but it clearly is contagious. As to the number of feet, we’re still trying to figure the exact amount out. We’re using six feet now. My own personal feeling is it probably could be less than that if people are wearing masks and practicing mitigation strategies.


[Lisa Nielsen]: We have one last follow-up question, it’s very popular with a lot of young people to wear neck gaiters and the question is: are those as safe as masks or other alternatives for kids? 


[Dr. Dimitri Christakis]: Really good question. The way you know you can think of masks as being what they are which is basically a filter and the denser a filter is the better it works right. So the way it works is it tries to prevent virus particles from getting through it. So the most important thing for you to think about is how dense is that fabric. If you can see through a gator it lets you know that it’s not very dense, that there are many many holes in it for viruses to get through. The masks that I wear at work and the masks that I wear when I go shopping are what are called surgical masks, and those are very dense and in fact allow very very few viruses really virtually none to get through. So it’s not about where you wear it, it’s about the fabric itself. The only other thing I’ll say about neck gaiters is that there’s a tendency to pull them down and up pull them down and up and kind of what I said before about masks the best thing to do is to put them on and keep them on because every time you take them off you run the risk of contaminating the mask and then putting it back on your face putting virus directly in contact with your nose or mouth.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you, and just from an educator and parent perspective, I’m thinking a fun experiment to do with your child or student is the see-test. Can you see through this whatever you’re using as a mask or I even heard some teachers and parents are doing the blow a candle out test, how do different face coverings respond to that. So thank you for sharing those insights. I do want to take a look at the results of our poll. If we can get those pulled up and, wow, so we have the majority of people today are selecting distance learning for their children at 44 percent, in person schooling 16 percent, hybrid comes in at about a quarter of the participants, other eight percent, and seven percent are here undecided about what to do so hopefully we’ll be able to help those seven percent make a decision. Thank you to everyone who did participate in that poll. Much appreciated. Now we’re going to hear from Dr. David Mckinnon. Dr. Mckinnon is a parent and Professor of Neurobiology and Behavior at Stony Brook University. He will share a parent’s perspective to this transition to school and online learning in general. We’ll hear insights about his own daughter’s experience and Dr. Mckinnon’s experience supporting her through online learning. So if we could turn it over to Dr. Mckinnon.


[Dr. David Mckinnon]: I think this is going to be a video. I assume is going to play in a second. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Yeah, yeah so we will get that rolling.


[VIDEO: David McKinnon]: Parents have faced a series of difficult decisions surrounding the return to school. This is a problem in risk assessment, where it is difficult to judge the real risk. The potential risks are negative health outcomes for one or more family members due to the COVID-19 virus, negative educational outcomes due to problems with remote instruction, negative emotional effects due to social isolation. The most fundamental decision is whether to send your child back to school or rely on some form of remote instruction. The risk of infection during remote instruction is the same as it was during the shutdown. The family can control their risk by minimizing social contacts and taking safety precautions while out of the house. This map shows the regional risk at the county level for returning to school. As you can see risk varies considerably across the country, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to advice on returning. Green is good: everyone goes back to school with standard anti-pandemic precautions. Even this is not normal school. It is school with masks, hand washing shields, social distancing, etc. Most of us don’t live in the green areas so the decisions become more complex. The yellow regions, it is recommended that elementary and middle school return in full and high school return hybrid. For the orange regions it is recommended that elementary and middle school return in full and high school is remote. For the red regions, remote instruction only. This might seem odd that the elementary students can return and high school students cannot. This is because it is relatively easy to keep elementary students in small social cohorts and almost impossible to do this for the high school students. It is also more difficult to teach the elementary students remotely. What are the ways you can mitigate risk for your child returning to school? Single most useful thing you can do is lobby your school administration and school board to adopt every reasonable health precaution: masks, hand washing, social distancing, six foot spacing in class, socially distance transport, organize groups to the administration and organize petitions. There are several political currents surrounding the return to school. If you face opposition for these measures argue from the position of enlightened self-interest. It is in everyone’s interest for the school to stay open as long as possible and the best way to achieve this is by adopting all reasonable safety measures. Although infection rates are declining for many schools, someone will turn up to school with the virus on the first day of school. The school will almost certainly not close at this point; this is a reason for all the health precautions to stop transmission within the school. School will probably not close until there is evidence of viral transmission within the school. Some people will be uncomfortable with this. This is why you should keep careful track of local infection levels especially at the school. Make sure the school posts a report daily on the number of covid cases within the school. Finally prepare your child for a changed environment and impress on them the importance of following the new rules. The risk of going to school is health. The risk for staying home is education. The main question is how bad will remote instruction be this term. Starting point for most parents and understanding the risk here is what happened during the shutdown. For most students remote teaching during the shutdown did not work well; many teachers struggled to create effective remote learning programs from scratch with little time and support, and a majority of students quickly became disengaged. Learned little or nothing and in many cases regressed. Your best indicator for what will happen in the coming term is what happened during the shutdown. The district and teachers will have had more time to prepare but not as much as time as you might think because the plans keep changing. It will still be the same people overseeing and implementing the program. Based on my own experience creating a good remote learning program is a very challenging task, even a few months preparation is not adequate given the limited support the teachers have received. Over summer, my daughter and I experimented with remote learning by trying three different remote instruction programs. One remote learning program was outstanding; it was very intense and interactive between both the teacher and students. It only lasted a week and focused on one thing: creative writing. It was an unqualified success. Unfortunately it is very unlikely that most public schools will implement anything like this. The second remote program was a remote version of what is usually an outstanding in-person enrichment school. This was not particularly successful, significantly worse than the equivalent in-person class from the same institution. This program illustrated the problem with translating a pre-existing course to remote instruction. Zoom or google meet are cool media. The teacher has to work much harder to get the students involved remotely. It can be done but it requires a specific or intense format to really work. Homeschooling proved very difficult for us. The course materials were well done but they only comprised written material and exams. You, the parents, are the teacher. I proved to be a problematic teacher for my child. She’s too old for me to teach effectively. This may work well with younger children if you have the time to invest. What are the ways you can mitigate risk for your child if you opt for remote instruction? Once again the single most useful thing you can do is lobby your school administration and school board. Ask the school district to adopt remote instruction programs that maximize live interaction with the teacher and with other students. Simply live streaming our class is unlikely to hold most students’ interest for very long. Anticipate investing more time in your child’s education than you have in the past. You probably already know this from the shutdown, but it will be necessary again, look to augment the school’s remote instruction with tutoring or enrichment classes. Remote learning is likely to be uneven. Look to supplement your child’s education in the weakest areas. Consider homeschooling, especially for younger children, although we personally struggled with this it can work well if there is a stay-at-home parent and they have an aptitude for teaching. The advantage is that there is a lot of support for homeschooling from other parents and homeschooling organizations. This is probably most useful for younger children where remote learning will be most problematic. Finally return to the original question, whether or not to return to school. This is the situation where I live on Long Island for a typical local family. Local infection rates are towards the bottom of the yellow range. The family has no age or health problems. The children did poorly with remote instruction and missed the social aspects of school. There are two working parents. For this situation, it makes sense for all grades to return to school. Now if you just change one thing, there is someone in the family with a health risk, the decision becomes much more complicated. If the children are in elementary school, this family faces some tough financial career decisions. If the children are older than they can supervise themselves for the remote learning but may struggle academically. Now change the state to georgia. It is on the top end of the orange range. The guidelines suggest elementary middle school return and high school go remote. Firstly, I would stay out of middle school as well.  It is probably best to have the elementary children go to school. It is much easier to keep the elementary children in a cohort within the school and with two working parents they’ll have to be placed in daycare or some other setting where they could be exposed in a less controlled way than in school. In conclusion, all recommendations have to be viewed through the prism of your own family’s health concerns. If your family has a specific health issue these should have considerable weight in your decision. If going to school, keep careful track of infection levels at the state county and school levels. If you can get this information, this is what will drive the risk for your family. If opting for remote instruction do not rely entirely on the school district. Examine all your education options. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you so much David for those really great insights. I really loved how you provided concrete scientific and common sense advice on the best way to make a decision for your family and about whether your children should go to school. What you really pointed to is that there’s not a one-size-fits-all model, and we need to deeply consider grade levels and infection rates. So thank you for bringing that up. We do have a question from the audience. That is: can you please provide strategies to support students to stay engaged and focused? It’s easy for middle schoolers to disengage.


[Dr. David Mckinnon]: So there are multiple variants on this question. It’s a question on a lot of people’s minds. It’s a very difficult problem. Each year I attend a seminar series down the street at Cold Spring Harbor Labs. I typically sit through hours of seminars over several days quite happily; many of the lecturers are not particularly gifted public speakers. This year the meeting was remote, I didn’t make it through the first ten minute talk. I just found it impossible to concentrate. I tried one or two more times and again simply failed to engage. I find remote instruction almost completely unengaging. I find it hard to make it through a faculty meeting. It’s not just a problem for middle schoolers a lot of people have this problem there’s no real simple way around it. As I mentioned earlier zoom or google meets are cool media in the sense originally proposed by Marshall McLuhan. Most remote teaching or classes look like very dull television shows. A lot of students will struggle to remain engaged with just a video. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Yes okay, oh sorry go ahead.


[Dr. David Mckinnon]: No no I can stop there I can get going. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Oh no sorry. I thought you were done so please continue.


[Dr. David Mckinnon]: Unfortunately for middle school and high schoolers the most common method of remote instruction that’s proposed is going to be live streaming of a class. For many probably most, this is not going to work very well. In this situation I would try to get the child to strategize to conserve their concentration resources, try to get them to focus on the most important classes Math and English. Even in these classes trying to find out from the teacher what days and times most actual instruction occurs and focus on that I definitely would not insist on them watching the entire day. As I mentioned earlier, I would lobby the school district to make online classes as interactive as possible, but this is going to be difficult in large part because of a lack of resources. The second thing I would do is supplement what the child is learning with alternative instruction programs. In Math the Khan Academy is good. Develop a parallel program of work using that source for English and History. Look at homeschooling courses that cover the same material. Hire tutors, especially young tutors who are cheap, but also because they’re young the children can relate better and realize that the material is accessible and can be mastered by young people as well. It depends on the child of course, but in general it will be necessary to find other ways to engage them in the material in addition to what’s provided by the school. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Okay thank you so much. What I really like that you said is how it’s difficult to listen to the live instruction on video, but I would also add to that for me personally as a student I had a hard time listening to live instruction lectures face to face. So hopefully this will inspire educators to come up with some more interactive and creative ways to engage their students and I think they’ll hopefully have a lot of ideas. Your point about training and support I think that’s a great question also for families to ask schools is what kind of training and support are you giving your educators? I know educators will really appreciate families supporting them and getting the training and support that they need. Now we’re going to hear from Dr. Charmain Jackman. Dr. Jackman will discuss the mental health impacts of this transition back to school and how school districts can be mindful to support all students through these challenges. She will share how students and administrators must consider diversity equity and inclusion more than ever. She will also be discussing how to talk to your child about what they want and need. Dr. Jackman if you can unmute your mic and share a little insights with us. We’d love to hear from you. 


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: Sure and can everyone see my screen okay? Yes, great thank you. Excited to be here and have this conversation. In addition to being a psychologist and running an organization I’m also the parent of  two kids. Fifth grade and second grade. So all this information is very relevant to me as well as our family tries to navigate the situation. As Lisa said I’ll be talking about the emotional health of our young ones of our children. Kelly is going to open the chat. So if you can post in the chat how does your child feel about going back to school. If you can choose which image best captures how your child is feeling right now about going back to school, that would be great. Just post the letter in the chat and we’ll kind of discuss that. I’m going to open up the chat to see what. A range, love it. A mix exactly. Very great, very great. I think it’s so true right our children have very different reactions. From day to day that might change. It’s really important we’ll talk about it. How do you stay in tune with what your child is feeling and how they are? How are they processing what’s going on? My next question using the same images. Which child do you think is experiencing anxiety about going back to school, again whatever model it is. What image do you think best captures how a child might express their anxiety? So a lot of the d’s and b’s, some a’s as well. Awesome, great. So very few or no one mentioned c. Ah one person did. So the thing is, you know your child, any of these images can reflect anxiety. So even though a child may look happy on the outside and may be able to engage in an activity they may still experience anxiety and so that person william you got it right that was my trick question. So let’s get into it. Again there is a lot of uncertainty around the decisions that you have to make. Some of you have already made your decisions and that can feel somewhat of a relief right. So okay so you have made the decision now you have to prepare for what that might look like what I really want to get into right now is to talk a little bit about what you can do to kind of recognize what might be happening for your child and i’m talking specifically about anxiety because I think that’s what most kids children are experiencing. We’ll talk about what you can do in terms of advocating for your school around that. What is the difference between anxiety or worry versus clinical anxiety? You know with covid, with the racial pandemic, with the quarantine these have brought up situations that many of us as adults haven’t had to navigate either and so we’re also trying to support our students with our children with these very huge huge events in our society. So when we talk about worrying anxiety, kind of typical anxiety, these are reasonable reactions to events that happen; there might be crisis situations or just some event that disrupts our day-to-day. A reasonable reaction might be crime might see ten trends right, you might see some cleanliness initially, you may have a lot of questions right. So what if this happens? What if? So these are some typical reactions that your child might be experiencing. You might notice some regression and behavior. I saw that a lot in spring with my own children right. They were doing okay, doing okay and then they would go back to behaviors that they had passed long ago. Whether it’s being really sensitive or just having low frustration tolerance, these are kind of some of the reactions that people have or kids have when they’re experiencing anxiety or worry, but don’t know how don’t have the words for it. Usually with typical anxiety and worry you can know some assurance and soothing they’re able to kind of regroup, get back on page, get back to doing activities that they like to do. With clinical anxiety, on the other hand, you will see changes in mood and behavior that persist for more than two weeks. That’s our typical marker and I think in this time of crisis even persists longer than that. You might notice disruptions in their sleeping, disruptions in their eating, you might notice avoidance like not wanting to leave the house, and worried about getting sick right or an adult getting sick. You might notice some separation anxiety; so if a parent has to leave the house or go to work, these extreme reactions about you know fear that the parent or the caregiver might get sick or might get into a car accident. Just very like catastrophic reactions. You might notice some panic attacks. For kids this can also look like tantrums but you know it’s really hard to soothe or get back under control. You might notice some loss and pleasure in activities and I saw some of this with my own children where there are activities that they enjoy doing that they just didn’t want to do anymore right. They just got used to this almost sedentary closed environment and it just created additional  challenges for them in kind of getting outside and getting into activities. The withdrawal from their friendships just played a lot into their coping and their adjustment. So I think you know one of the things that I think David talked about was you know the decisions to go back to school. Right we’re taking in our health  and education but I think mental health is a critical piece. And that was a decision our own family made, a decision that we weren’t necessarily worried about the health and safety but I saw the need for my child from a social emotional perspective to get back into a routine with other children and learning spaces. So that has been a priority for me. Thinking about how you advocate for your schools. I think questions to ask what are the social emotional, what are the wellness practices or supports that you’re going to build into the school regardless of whatever mode you’re learning in, even if it’s remote or in person right. Will they have access to wellness days? Where they may be practicing wellness activities or mindfulness skills. Will they have opportunities to talk to a counselor or have small support groups? These are really important things because they continue to build on their social emotional and their language and vocabulary around navigating social relationships, building frustration tolerance, and building conflict resolution skills. These are all things that students need in terms of furthering their social emotional learning. You want to make sure that schools are paying attention to this piece as well. It can kind of go to the wayside as schools kind of focus on the academic piece, but it’s really important that the social emotional part of their learning is also emphasized because it will provide excellent coping skills to navigate these really challenging situations. So those are questions I think you should be asking your schools, your teachers and your districts. If you notice that your child is experiencing are moving more along the clinical anxiety part of that really talking to the teacher as well and making a plan for how they’re going to support your student your child in navigating and anticipating when they’re having a difficult time how do they manage transitions you know transitions can also be really hard for children who have anxiety disorders. So you really want to make sure that they’re creating a specific plan that will help your child navigate all the challenges. I think this is particularly going to be key for the hybrid model where you’re in person some days and in school some days at home sometimes. So that involves a lot of transitions. Keep in mind if your child is not good at managing transitions then it may be important for you to think about what is the right model, what is the best model for my child and what’s going to set them up for success all right. The other thing about just kind of what are the conversations that you’re having about going back to school. How are you making those plans? I think it’s really important to first thing, I encourage parents to do or caregivers really tap into and assess for your own self how am I feeling how am I doing with all of this what is my anxiety level. I think sometimes we can just focus on figuring out the decision about going back to school and we forget about how we’re coping with that. So it’s really important to pay attention to what you’re dealing with because it can help our kids pick up on our behaviors right. Our kids pick up on our anxieties really quickly. So you want to make sure that you are not giving off a negative vibe that’s going to impact them one way or the other. Really checking in where you’re at. Be curious. You know talking to your kids, you know, what are you thinking about school? What are you feeling? Really kind of keeping a neutral stance that allows them to share all the different feelings that they’re having. Asking about you know what they have heard, what they are thinking about it. Also exploring the different options right. We have all these different options and there are pluses and minus to all of them right. None of them are perfect, none of them is perfect, so really thinking about you really kind of getting a sense from your child. What they can tolerate. Helping them to name and normalize their feelings. Again we have been through a tremendous emotional rollercoaster starting in march and maybe even before that right and so giving your child the language to name the different feelings that they’re having, and to say what you’re feeling that’s okay i understand it i get it those are normal. We’re not punishing them or putting them down or minimizing their feelings right. It’s really important to validate the feelings that they’re having around going back to school and reassuring that you’re there to support them, you’re going to be with them every step of the way. I think again discussing the hopes and fears of the different options. So if you haven’t decided yet or if you have decided to really talk through kind of what are they hoping about the different options and what are fears that they have. Again it may change from moment to moment right or some kids may just be thinking about the social aspect right. You know you want to remind them here are the other pieces that you want to make sure they’re thinking about and as they think about back to school. One important point I will say is just making sure that you are developing routines together. My partner is very big on the routines. I think that’s really been helpful because it creates predictability, it creates consistency, and it lets everybody know what’s happening or what needs to happen at a certain time. I think again and this is particularly important if you are in a remote learning situation or hybrid, because of all the changes and there may be some self-reliance that they need particularly if you’re a working parent, so creating routines with times built in times for breaks, times for movement, and time for mindfulness. Those are really going to be important as well. The last one is practicing some mindful strategies. I’ll share some resources and that can help with that as well. So depending on the age of your child, Little Sesame Street is for younger kids so this is like I would say kindergarten even first grade and below this is really great they have a module that helps kids problem solve different situations and how to kind of manage their emotions around those. The my life stop, breathe thing is great and that’s actually all ages. My kids love doing those animated characters as well. These are really great that you can practice together. If they have some screen time you can load that onto their ipad or their device or tablet and they can even do some of that on their own. Liberate and Shine are more for the older ages and for yourself. Again do not forget yourself in this process, it’s really important for you. My organization, InnoPsych, we created some cards that really help. They’re built on mindfulness strategies and help people navigate and walk through those mindfulness strategies as well. For those who order you can there’s a 10% off promo code that you can use and if you want to stay in contact with me this is my information, but I look forward to what questions you have as we continue to navigate the emotional wellness for students in these really challenging and uncertain times. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you so much Dr. Jackman for these insights. I really like the technique that you had of helping us understand what we and our children are feeling via images, and I think that could be a great technique for both parents and teachers and  might be fun to find images that might work for that.


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: Right because sometimes it’s hard for kids to name what they’re feeling. 


[Lia Nielsen]: Yeah that’s where your expertise definitely shines through, so thank you for that. So we do have a couple questions. The main question that came through is, is it possible that kids will develop a fear of going back to school once the restrictions lift and if so how do we deal with that?


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: Yeah, I think that’s definitely possible and again knowing your children and if they are worriers right, those what-if questions right they’re the kids who always have the what-if questions. So really even trying to anticipate some of this. You know we don’t know when school will open back, but you know we will make sure that when we go back that there are these precautions. Again thinking about their developmental age, that you’ll make sure that they’re remaining safe. Preparing them that there will be a time where they have to go back to school. I know my daughter was like one not wanting to go back because she is enjoying being home with me. I’m like that’s not a realistic model right. So you know again being kind, listening to the worries, trying to understand what are the worries, what are they really worried about, and also again just preparing you know prepping for that ahead of time.

[Lisa Nielsen]: We have one last question before we go to our final panelist. This is a parent who said she feels really, no I don’t know, that she or he feels very guilty for keeping their children or their child home this year. How should they work through that? Do you have any advice for a parent who feels this way? 


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: Yeah, definitely. I think it has been a lot on us and so I found it helpful talking to other families and just hearing kind of how they made their decisions, and how they process their decisions. I think every family I recommend is that you have to make a decision that’s going to be right for your family, and again with whatever we choose I think we all have this feeling like “oh it’s not it’s not perfect” right there’s always going to be some hesitation or something that’s not quite right. That part of giving ourselves grace, giving ourselves compassion like we are making these decisions with the best information that we know. We can change anything you know. If you decide on one mode, you can decide on something else right. So knowing that that’s possible. But if you feel like it’s really kind of immobilizing you, that you are noticing that it’s preventing you from getting going or just really being burdened by that it may be helpful to talk to a professional, mental health professional about some of the things that you’re experiencing.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you so much. You bring up such a good point because if it’s not working for the families they can change their mind, it’s our prerogative. 


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: It is. Definitely. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you. So now we are coming to our final panelist, Dr. Elizabeth Englander. Dr. Englander is the Director at the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State University. She is going to share some tips from her new book “When The Kids Come Back.” Specifically she’s going to share her top tips for classroom teachers, school counselors, and school administrators. So thank you so much for joining us Dr. Englander, and let’s hear how you can help our families and educators.


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Thanks so much Lisa, and Charmaine I loved everything you said. It was just totally wonderful and really really helpful. I’m right there with you all the way so we are kindred spirits. I’m gonna and it’s like a great segue because I’m gonna shift gears a little bit now and I’m gonna talk about how parents can help their schools help their kids as much as possible. So let’s go ahead and share the screen. All right it should look pretty good. Hello this is Elizabeth Englander again and I am just going to talk briefly about some tips that parents and schools can take that really can help cope with some of the social and emotional stuff that is likely to emerge this fall. So let’s go ahead and get started. This is a project at my center called the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center and the project is called “When The Kids Come Back” and we have a lot of resources for parents and for schools on that website and I will show it to you when I’m done talking just for a few minutes. Okay so the first thing I want to point out is that we have sort of a trifecta of stress right now. That’s really what we’re dealing with. Kids have gone through a lot. They’ve had the virus, the pandemic. They’ve seen people get sick, they may have had people who they know get very sick or even die and these are stressors. Then you have economic problems. The recession. Maybe their family’s situation that’s changed, you or your spouse may have lost a job. Some of you may have had to move. These things are all stressful for kids. Finally we have all the social changes that are going on and the stressors that we’re all dealing with in terms of understanding the role of race and ethnicity in our culture in America today and how we’re gonna cope with all that. How we’re gonna maximize it the best to what’s best for the country. I think that’s a really big task and I think kids feel the stress for that too. Now these are serious challenges but I really don’t want to be negative. I Want to point out when I’m talking today that there are ways to cope with some of these stressors and there are ways that we can really make things easier for kids this fall. Whether they’re going back to school, whether they’re staying at home or however it’s happening for them. So how can parents help schools cope? These are recommendations that schools can implement. I only have 10 minutes today so this is only a sample of some of the recommendations that we have but it will give you an idea of the kinds of things we can do and we can focus on. So one of the things that schools can do is they can use videos to really communicate with families and with kids. Everybody can send videos to students. Teachers can, administrators can, counseling staff can, and the message needs to be kids were really excited to work with you this fall. We can’t wait to see you in person if you’re coming back to school, we can’t wait to see you online and the idea is to really try to form a connection with every student. It’s also really helpful for communities if everyone knows who the counseling staff is. Because kids are dealing with all these stressors we really want the counseling staff to be on top of things. If parents know who they are, if they have their phone number, if they have their name, that can be really really helpful and that’s one of the things that parents can do to really help promote the smooth return to school. Now there’s another thing that parents can do which we call the quick reference handout. This is something that parent groups can do or schools can do, administrators can do. It can really help promote smooth communication between parents and school people. So for example what’s going to be new in school this year? The other thing that this handout can do is it can reiterate for parents who they need to contact and how to contact them. So for example, if your child has an emotional meltdown or  if they’re really worried about going back to school. They could be concerned about lots of things. They could be concerned about the virus, they could be concerned about what they have, how their socializing is going to happen ,if their friends will be there, if there’s bullying or fighting issues that have emerged over the pandemic during the lockdown. Those might be a concern. So if your child has an emotional meltdown who can you call? The answer is going to be somebody on the counseling staff. But you need to know their name and you need to know their number. Then there’s the new logistics right, because for a lot of schools logistics are going to be different. Where is the drop-off gonna be? How do you do the drop-off? Is there a drop-off ? Do parents have to walk their kids to the door? Maybe parents aren’t allowed to walk their kids to the door. Logistics are gonna change and they need to know who to call for that. Another thing that schools can do, and again this is something that parent groups can do as well, this is the plan in our community understanding what the plan is, what’s going to work, and what’s going to happen. So you know the kids are going to be in different places academically. We all understand this. Then there’s the idea that we know some kids, at least some kids in every community, are going to be struggling emotionally. This is not abnormal. This is to be expected. This is completely typical in this kind of situation. So we really want to help, we want the school to help these kids. So introductions to the counseling staff. Emphasizing that we’re going to be careful and this is what we’re going to try to do in the fall to reduce the transmission of the virus. I also think in a current climate it’s really prudent for schools to talk about the fact that everyone right now is sort of re-examining their school culture and thinking about things like how students who are at social disadvantage or if there’s social biases that are inherent in the school system. I think everybody is re-examining these kinds of questions, not just schools, everybody. I think it’s worthwhile to point out that we’re going to be re-examining it too, and we really want to address systemic racism in our community and we want to hear from people about that. All this information should be put on a web page. That’s something the PTO can sponsor in your school or the school can sponsor it but all this information should be posted online. One of the other things that schools can do that can be really helpful is counseling staff can put together a sort of psychological event and symptoms checklist. This can be really helpful. So if the counseling staff puts together this checklist and sends it out and everybody fills it out then what’s going to happen is the counseling staff will end up with a list of kids who they may want to check in with from time to time to make sure they’re feeling okay and that’s a good strategy overall. The counseling staff can also put together a local referral list. That would be things like pediatricians, psychologists, social workers, counselors, and other people who can potentially talk to kids who may be feeling the stress more than others. One issue for younger children that we know about is the mask. One approach to this is to make sure that teachers send younger students a picture of themselves with the mask and without the mask. I put up an example here of what that picture might look like. The idea is to show kids, I have a face behind the mask. You may not see it but my face is there, and the idea is to help kids get used to it. Some of the research that’s been done on kids who have gone through traumatic episodes where they’ve been out of school for months and months and months has found that relaxation and focus techniques can be incredibly helpful for kids. These are a few websites that show people how to teach their kids these techniques, and the idea is you teach it to your kids before they need it. Then if they feel really upset they can focus and use it. I don’t think there’s going to be classroom mayhem. I don’t think the kids are going to be swinging from the chandeliers or anything like that. But there will be some behavioral issues that researchers showed us might come up. So there was a series of hurricanes in Louisiana and the children there were out of school for about three or four months. They did some research on them when they returned to school. One of the things that research found is that the kids tended to be one of two types. They tended to be what we call either dwellers or avoiders. Dwellers were kids who really wanted to discuss the current situation. They wanted to talk about it in school, they wanted to talk about it with friends. Avoiders on the other hand were kids who felt real anxiety at the idea of these discussions and they really didn’t want to have these discussions. So how do you deal with it? Well the way you deal with it is you can do a couple of different things. First thing is you may need to point out to the dwellers that not everybody wants to talk about this right now, but they may need an outlet. They may have a real need to talk about it or think about it. So you can say to them, well we’ll talk about it later. You know we’re going to talk about it later today. So a teacher might say you’re going to talk about it with the school counselor they’re going to come visit the class today or you can let a dweller, for example, go and write in your journal about what they’re thinking at that moment. You can give them a relaxation or a focus technique so that they can all calm down and maybe feel more able to put off this discussion. It’s really important not to force avoiders to talk about this. On day one I think it’s really important to make a fuss. I think if your child’s going back to school in a hybrid or part-time fashion or full-time I think that making a fuss is important. I also think it’s important even if the kids are only going back to school online. Kids are excited to go back to school this year. All of us educators are excited too. I think we really need to make a fuss and tell kids how glad we are to see them whether it’s online or in person. Finally, we really need to begin to focus on a positive school climate and one that’s emotionally sensitive this fall particularly. So that may mean for example making sure that every teacher has the red flag cheat sheet that we put together for them. But also the school counseling staff can take some time to go around to the different classes and introduce themselves to all the kids. Just say, “My name is Dr. Englander and I’m the counselor here, my office is right down the hall. You can come see me anytime you want, I’d be really happy to talk to you.” So I hope this is helpful and I can take any questions you want. This is our website information. We have downloads there pertaining to everything I talked about and many more suggestions and ideas. We’ve been working on this project since April and I hope this has been helpful. Thank you.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you so much. You really shared a lot of great, powerful ideas. I’m going back to talk to the educators I work with and encourage them to make and “I can’t wait to see you video,” I love that idea and also the pictures of students and staff with and without a mask. So thank you for sharing that. I also like the thing that you shared about parents and having a quick reference hand out. For folks who don’t know there’s a website called and they actually have some of those quick reference handouts that parents and educators can access. Also the importance of having your plans on your school website that’s so important. I also wanted to remind people that if they do that, run your website through the wave web fame accessibility checker to ensure that it’s accessible to everyone including those with disabilities. Now Dr. Englander, you asked people if they had questions. You are the first person who has an audience member who would like to ask a live question so I would like to have Lacey join us. Oh nope, I think we’re doing Barbara first. We’ll have Barbara join us and if you guys will, if you can please jump in and ask your questions I’d appreciate it.

[Barbara]: Hi there. I’m faculty in the Bellevue  College Parent Education Program and we are starting our early childhood classes online. They’re co-op preschools so I’m looking for any information, and especially encouragement, for parents and teachers of preschool aged children who are starting the school year remotely. Thank you for all of the information so far. So any panelist.


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I don’t think I’m the best person to answer this because that sounds more like an academic question. Like how are you going to deliver a preschool curriculum in an online format, which I think is a great question, but I think somebody who maybe is more adept at developing academic resources for small children online. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: So if any of our panelists want to just put your hand up and then we can unmute you and have you chime in and if we aren’t able to answer it immediately… Okay great Dr. Christakis. 


[Dr. Dimitri Christakis]: Well I wish there were an answer that would be satisfactory. I think the reality is that engaging preschool children in a meaningful way to attend their cognitive and social development via zoom is or via teleconference is not very effective. I think what you really would be focusing on is providing educational tips to the parent or caregiver who is in the room to help them provide scaffolding opportunities and educational opportunities for their young child.


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I think in general younger children do better with offline activities. Older children do better with online activities, but it can be harder for parents to help them because the content can be more difficult. So if you’ve ever tried to do your high schoolers chemistry lesson you know what I’m talking about. It can be very challenging. 


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: Right and I was going to add, I think focusing on hands-on experiments and activities that they can do. Managing expectations. I was in a situation where we got a lot of stuff and it was just too much to manage. So keeping it to one or two activities per day. I think I would also say kindergarteners are different. You get such a wide developmental range so I think the important part will be the conversation between the family and the teacher in terms of where the student is at and kind of what they need and what they can manage.


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I think managing expectations is going to be important for everybody this fall, I really do. I don’t think we’re all going to be able to charge ahead as regular. We are all going to have to adjust to new realities and one of those is in older kids school age and older kids. They’re all going to be coming in in the fall in completely different places academically and classrooms are going to have to adjust to that. It’s going to be very challenging.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you. Then we have a question from Lacy. So if you could unmute your mic and let’s hear from you Lacy. 


[Lacy]: Hi guys. Is my mic working okay?


[Lisa Nielsen]: You’re good.


[Lacy]: Great. Okay, my name’s Lacy. I’m a mother of three. I have a 11, 9, and 6 year old. My 11 year old is autistic. My question is do you have any strategies for helping to meet the accommodations and needs of special education students under virtual learning? And this is for everyone.


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: I could talk about that a little bit. I know that that a number of school districts are really approaching children who are on IEPs differently, so they’re putting together more concrete plans. I think you should work with your school district and talk to them about how your child’s plan can be accommodated online as best as possible because I suspect that they’re ready to help parents with that exact question. I think that you know in ways you may find it advantageous. So if you can, for example, put up a very distraction free zone in your house, your child may have an easier time there than they do in a classroom setting. I do also know that there are some schools that are having children on IEPs come into school even if the school itself is doing a hybrid model. So you may actually find…


[Lacy]: Our school’s a hybrid model and one of the reasons we pushed back against sending her was because she has this oral fixation. She likes to put her fingers in her mouth, she likes to lick things, she likes to put other things in her mouth, so we are worried about sending her at all because it probably wouldn’t be a good time to do these things. 


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Yeah 


[Lisa Nielsen]: We have one final question. It’s directed toward Dr. Englander, but anyone can answer. That is, we’d love to hear your thoughts on lunch and classroom as there will be no mask wearing. So Dr. Englander or anyone who wants to answer.


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: So you know lunch in the classroom is, generally speaking, a good idea because we’re talking about smaller groups, and we’re talking about kids who hopefully are socially spaced to some extent at their desks versus going into a lunchroom you know where the kids would crowd together at tables and transmit. They obviously have to take off their masks to eat and you know that’s going to be a risk we’re all going to have to feel okay with. I think what I would do is ask questions of my child’s teacher about issues like ventilation. Is it possible for them to eat outside? At least while the weather’s good depending on what area of the country you’re living in. Just see if there are mitigation factors that you can address in terms of minimizing the risk, but they have to eat.


[Lisa Nielsen]: All right thank you. Would anyone else like to add to that or if not we will go on to the final part of today’s webinar. Okay and just a reminder for audience members if you do have a question please use the Q&A feature and indicate if you would like to share live as well. I’m going to move it on to the last part. We’re going to wrap up with a few solid tips for families and then some ideas from our panelists. I’m going to start by just sharing with you an online learning cheat sheet. We know parents and teachers want to make online learning as successful as possible so here are some ideas to keep in mind and they fall in three categories: predictability, connections, and accessibility. Predictability is so important because in these uncertain times we really want to do what we can to keep what is happening in schools predictable. Some ways that this can be done is by having a consistent day each week where assignments and expectations for the week are shared. As well as a consistent day each week assignments are due. I mentioned earlier to Dr. Englander there is a site called Wideopen School and they have a variety of helpful things for distance and remote and hybrid learning. One of them is a daily and weekly plan. It will be very helpful for your students to have a daily and weekly plan to help keep what they’re doing consistent and predictable. Another thing that teachers could do is have a weekly flow. So on Mondays students know to expect this, on Tuesdays to expect something else and they really just have a predictable schedule each week. It’s a good idea if you could keep that at least through a particular quarter of the year. Then provide one place where students and families can find content. Whether that’s a school website, a google classroom, a hyperdoc, whatever that might be, that predictable place where students and their families know that they could go is quite helpful. The other thing in this disconnected time for some is to help them establish connections. Being social is so important right now. So for educators set up times where students can connect. That might be, even if it’s a video conference, virtual lunch and learn, there might be time at the start or end of class. You might have something fun that is optional like a weekly book talk or movie talk or exercise time to come together. It’s also important for educators to have office hours and check-ins. Then we also talked about the student cohorts or pods. Those will be a really important way for students to develop those meaningful relationships that might have been missing a little during the time where we rush to emergency learning in that remote period of the spring. Then there’s a great website and you can access this for free called Thrively, and it’s a strength finder and it helps you really get to know the strengths of your students. That might be a really nice thing for educators to do at the beginning of the year. Another thing is the importance of accessibility. So you want students to be able to access what they need anytime, anywhere. It might be difficult if they’re at home to access a computer or other device at some time so if you can record instructions that might help with accessibility. Also provide accessible content that doesn’t have to be printed. It is fine if it is printed, but you want it to also be something that doesn’t need to be printed because if it doesn’t need to be printed and if it is digital then it can also be accessible. By accessible, let me just explain a little bit of what i’m saying, if a teacher provides something that’s only in a paper format then it is not accessible. If you provide only a pdf this means that you’re assuming that those who receive the content have a printer and prefer paper but they might not so you want to give them choice and you want to give students the option to engage with content digitally. If you’re thinking paper first you’re providing content that can’t be read by a screen reader thus eliminating the ability for the blind to read it or even for people who are learning english or just developing their literacy skills. If it’s not digital then you can’t have the screen read what’s on it to those learners. If it’s not digital you can’t increase the size and we all know especially any of us who are aging a little bit that it might be helpful if you increase the size of what you’re reading. Also in a place like where I work in New York City 50 percent of families speak a language other than English at home. If you provide digital content, it’s more easily translatable and it’s also searchable so the infusion of technology into teaching finally makes content accessible to everyone including those with disabilities. That’s just something we really want to do is give students that option to have a lot of different types of content. Some other tips that you can get are right from Children and Screens and you can visit  and you’ll find there a variety of useful resources. I shared here too that are relevant for today’s conversation so please make sure that you go there and visit I want to bring us back to where we started and if you remember I asked you to focus on a few main questions. Those main questions will be what to ask your child’s school, what to ask your child, things that you are asking staff or considering around your own well-being, or considering around health and wellness. I am going to start this off, kind of kick it off, with three things that you might want to ask your child’s school. Let me just pop over here. Some of the things that you might want to ask your child’s school are will you provide accessible content to my child, how will I get this information about assignments or other classroom news, and what should we do if we’re having technical difficulties? So I’m going to stop sharing my screen there. Those are just three things that you might want to ask your child’s school. I’d like to ask the other panelists to just wrap up with some other things that might be helpful to think about as families are preparing to send their children back to school. Then we’ll turn it over to Pamela to wrap us up. So yeah.


[Dr. David McKinnon]: I would more than ever the school is your partner here. You have to figure out lines of communication with the teacher and with the administration, you have to understand what their goals are, and then if those goals aren’t really satisfactory you have to try to understand how to to modify them by lobbying the school board or the administration. But first of all understand what’s going on. They really are your partner, they’re the people that are going to be the most helpful through this process. Which is going to be very difficult. It’s going to be very difficult for them.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you. Who would like to go next Dr. Jackman, Dr. Englander?


[Dr. Charmain Jackman]: So again I, you know, wanted to start with just kind of noticing for yourself and to just have grace and compassion for yourself. Again there’s a lot that’s happening and so a lot that you have to navigate and decide and just I think keep in mind that you can always change your mind. Start practicing those mindfulness skills. I shared a few resources so those are great and they’re really engaging for students and for your kids. Then talk to your school you know make your, as David said, your school is your partner. So making sure you are having communication with your child’s teacher about how your child is doing, what they’re feeling about coming back to school, and again talking to your kid. Thank you.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Dr. Englander would you like to share? 


[Dr. Elizabeth Englander]: Yes sure. I’m just going to say that I think we’re all going to have to be more emotionally sensitive than we usually need to be this fall. I think that the kids are going to be in a unique place and the teachers are human and they’re going to be in a unique place too. I think that we need to take some care and really think about how people are all doing and check in with each other. Really make sure the kids know that how much we value them. I really think that kids growing through this are gonna they’re gonna always remember this time, I really think that’s true. I think that they’re, I think they’re what they’re really gonna remember is how we dealt with everything. So let’s really try to be kind to each other and focus on being helpful towards each other.


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you. 


[Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra]: Thank you all for coming and for participating in such an important discussion. Thank you Lisa, Dimitri, David, Elizabeth, and Charmain for sharing such great tips and concrete information about how to make the most of the upcoming school year. Please share the YouTube video you’ll receive of today’s workshop with your fellow parents, teachers, clinicians, researchers, and friends. Please follow us on social media at the account shown on your screen. Our discussions about digital media use and children’s well-being will continue throughout the summer and fall with weekly Wednesday workshops. Next week, Dr. Englander will be with us again to moderate a discussion about cyber bullying on Wednesday September 2nd at noon. We hope you’ll join us. When you leave the workshop you’ll see a link to a short survey, please click on the link and let us know what you thought of the workshop. Thanks again and everyone stay safe and well. 


[Lisa Nielsen]: Thank you, bye.