Transitioning From Remote Learning to In-Person School: What Parents Should Know

By: Julie Grippo Schuler of Your Teen Magazine

Like most families, my kids studied remotely for the better part of the 2020-21 school year. My middle schooler and high schooler were remote for part of the year, then hybrid, and finally in-person for the last few weeks, while wearing masks. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief when this year finally, gratefully ended.

Now what? How are things looking for the next school year?

For millions of parents, especially those whose tweens and teens were remote all year, that’s the looming question for the fall. “My son is switching from remote to in-person next year, but he’s nervous about it,” one mom in my district told me.

She’s not alone. According to a U.S. Department of Education survey, 48% of middle school students surveyed remained fully remote in January and 33% were still remote in April; only 41% were in person by the end of the school year. How difficult will it be for students—and their parents—to adjust?

Phyllis Fagell, a school counselor and author of the book Middle School Matters, saw first-hand how going from remote learning to in-person instruction affected students when her school in Washington D.C. returned to in-person instruction late in the school year.

Transitioning From Remote Learning to In-Person School

“One of the things that really struck me was how we’ve all gone through an extended period of chronic stress due to the uncertainty of the pandemic,” says Fagell. “When the students came back, this stress led to attention issues in children across the board, even those without previous attention issues.”

Whether your student is excited to rejoin in-person learning, or feeling nervous about it (or possibly a bit of both), Fagell offers these tips for parents to help them prepare and navigate the return to school!

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Tips to Help Kids Prepare and Navigate the Return to School:

1. Re-learn Sleep and Hygiene Habits.

Staying still, focusing for extended periods of time and sitting at a desk all day became a challenge for many students switching from at-home to in-person learning. Here’s a habit they’ll need to break: rolling out of bed two minutes before their first scheduled Zoom.

“Predictability, consistency and structure are important to middle schoolers, so sleep schedules will have to be re-learned, and parents should start on this over the summer,” says Fagell. Getting students back into the habit of good hygiene is also important. “Middle schoolers especially can take a hit socially if they forget how to do those things.”

2. Be Gentle with Academic Demands.

Students will also be relearning how to be “on” socially for an entire school day. Even kids that were in-school, wearing masks, will have to adjust. “If they had been struggling academically, don’t focus on grades quite as much at first: just get them back into the groove. Focus on the process and what they’re learning.

Ask questions like, ‘What’s different about school than you expected?’ and ‘How can I support you?’ Give them some leeway and grace to help them,” Fagell advises. Many kids will likely need some sort of supplemental support this year to catch up to where they were. Adding a few hours of after-school tutoring can help students fill in gaps on anything missed from the last year and stay on track with what’s expected this year.

3. Don’t Overschedule.

Being in school all day (again) can also lead to more fatigue in teens. Says Fagell, “They run out of steam much faster. As parents plan activities for the fall, they should start slowly and be prepared to drop things or start basic and ramp up later. Maybe doing violin, math tutoring and baseball all at once won’t work at first.”

4. Make a Plan.

Fagell noticed that many of her students struggled with the social aspects of returning to school—even those kids you wouldn’t expect to have difficulty socially. If your child is already anxious about returning to in-person learning, the best tactic is to come up with a plan. Her advice? “First you have to validate that that issue is real. Ask them what they liked about remote learning.

For example:

- Did they like having more flexibility about when they were doing their work?
- Was it easier to get help from the teacher using email than going in-person?
- Did they have less anxiety about socializing with peers?

Depending on their answers, come up with a game plan to make in-person learning better for them. Says Fagell, “Together, you can develop small ways to make the return to in-school learning more palatable.”

Get Your Free Back-to-School Planning Session

Whatever lies in store, having a heads up on the possible speed bumps will give everyone a better chance at a smooth start to the new school year.

If you’re looking for some guidance with navigating the new school year, your local Sylvan team is here to help.

We offer FREE Back-to-School Planning Sessions with our education experts to help answer questions parents might have and to provide advice, guidance and share tools that can set kids up for a successful school year! Find your local Sylvan today.

Find My Local Sylvan
We'd love to talk with you about how we can help your child reach his or her individual goals!